Summary: Life’s greatest choice is freedom of religion.
A couple had been married for twenty years when they went to a wedding of a close friend’s daughter. During the ring exchange ceremony, the husband started to cry. The wife, surprised by her husband’s emotional outburst, said, "I didn’t realize that you have such deep feelings about your friend’s happiness."
The husband replied, "Twenty years ago, your father threatened that if I don’t marry you, he would put me behind bars for twenty years. And I realize if I had just gone to jail, I would’ve been a free man by now.”
What does freedom mean to you? What mental picture do you have when I say the word freedom? Do you think of Independence Day? Do you think of picnics with family and friends? Do you think of fireworks? Do you think of a man with his face painted blue who is yelling really loud?
Freedom takes on new meaning as we go through different stages in life. For the third grader, freedom is summer vacation away from school. There is no homework, there is nothing to study. It’s just time to have fun.
For the 16 year old, freedom is having that drivers’ license and being able to drive to places on your own. How many of you can still remember that feeling of freedom as you cruised down the road for the first time by yourself?
For the college student, freedom is being able to determine for yourself what time you want to come in and if you want to sleep in and skip class.
For the 29 year old husband whose wife is in Ohio for the weekend visiting her family because they are having a wedding shower for her soon to be sister-in-law, freedom is thinking he’s going to act like he did in college and stay up all night long watching action movies. Going to bed at 4 AM is not a good decision anymore.
Freedom has different meanings for different people. Perhaps the best definition of freedom that I can offer is simply this: freedom is the opportunity to make a choice. We enjoy having choices. Americans have excelled at making choices.
Just this week we have seen the new Apple I-phone sold in stores. The I-phone is not just a phone. It is also an address book to store contacts, a calendar, way to send and check email, a camera and photo album, it allows you to listen to music, and it’s a TV.
We love choices. Freedom is about making choices.
Think about this statement, “Life is the sum total of all our choices.” Every day we make choices. Some choices we make are big; some are small. Some choices have only a limited effect while others may affect the course of our entire lives and the lives of others.
There are important decisions like choosing a career, education, or a spouse. But the most important decision every person will make has to do with their freedom of religion. Life’s greatest choice is freedom of religion.
This is not a choice that began 231 years ago in our nation. Rather, freedom of religion has been in existence since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve had freedom of religion. They had a choice as to whether or not they would choose to worship God or worship themselves. All of human history from that point on has hinged on our choice in freedom of religion.
There is a great example in the Old Testament book of Joshua where the nation of Israel was given the freedom to choose whether or not they would follow God. After Moses passed away it was Joshua who led the people on their conquest of the Promised Land. And nearing the end of his life, the leader Joshua wants to assemble the people and challenge them to always make the choice of worshipping God.
Listen to Joshua 24:1, ““1Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.” So here we see the stage set. Joshua has everyone get together and stand before God.
In his farewell address to the nation, Joshua gives them…
A CHALLENGE TO REMEMBER
In verses 2 - 13 Joshua gives a quick summary of the nations’ history up to that point. “2 Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ’Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.