Summary: sermon for July fourth

"Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land"

July 4, 2010

OPEN: Today on the 4th of July we are celebrating our nation's 234th birthday. 234 years ago the United States was born. A nation based on the ideals of liberty, responsibility, godliness, and the freedom to become what God intended us to become was a new and revolutionary idea. The celebration of our nation's birthday is really a celebration of freedom. We celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have because of the price others paid. You see, we must remember that freedom isn't free. Freedom is very expensive. It has cost some people everything, including their lives. Freedom isn't free, but it is infinitely valuable.

What are we really celebrating today?

Independence from tyranny.

Dependence upon God.

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, our Founding Fathers signed a document declaring our independence from the tyranny of those who would enslave the minds, the souls, the lives of men. But what many Americans don't realize is that with the same document, we not only declared our independence from Great Britain, we just as strongly declared our dependence upon Almighty God. The Declaration of Independence begins by proclaiming that this nation is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Do you remember how it ends? It ends with these words: "With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." The word reliance means dependence. The signers of the Declaration were staking everything on God watching over them and seeing them through in their struggle for freedom. This is a nation that was founded upon the notion that we must be free from tyranny and we must be dependant upon our God. Our nation's founding document declared independence from Great Britain; but with equal passion, dependence upon God. The spirit of 1776 was one of reverence and trust in God.

The title I chose for this message was a message that was well known during the revolutionary days.

Does anyone know where it comes from? It is actually an engraving that is on the Liberty Bell. After our Founding Fathers unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence on July 2, and it was signed on July 4, the first public reading of the Declaration took place on July 8, and it was celebrated by a band and the ringing of bells. And the very first bell they rang was in the belfry of the very hall where they approved the Declaration of Independence to summon the people to hear the reading of America's founding document. They rang that bell--we know it as the "Liberty Bell." Where did it get its name? The name comes from the Scripture that imprinted on the bell - Lev. 25:10 - which says: "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof!" Proclaim liberty throughout the land. Let Freedom Ring!

Let me give you a brief history of the story of the Liberty Bell: In September of 1777, the republic was only a year old and its army, commanded by Gen. George Washington, faced a crisis. Washington was unable to keep the British out of the capital city of Philadelphia, having lost the Battle of Brandywine. The new nation was about to fall into enemy hands. The British believed that if they could occupy the capital, this "colonial rebellion" could be stopped. During a war, metal becomes scarce, so it was feared that the British might melt down the city's church bells and the bells of the State House, including the bell we now know as the Liberty Bell. So it was decided to remove the eleven bells from the city so they would not fall into enemy hands. The bells would eventually make their way to a distant village called Allentown, 50 miles to the north, for safekeeping while the British occupied Philadelphia. A train of 700 wagons was organized to carry the bell and other important items to a safe place. Carefully camouflaged by hay and manure, the Liberty Bell and other bells were transported with their guard of 200 cavalrymen, arriving in Bethlehem, PA on September 24, 1777. That night the bells were hauled to Allentown where they were hidden under the floorboards of old Zion's Reformed Church. There, they remained in safety until the following July. By the end of June, 1778, the British had evacuated Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell and the church bells were restored to their rightful places.

Everyone is aware that there is an ongoing discussion in our nation's classrooms over whether or not America was really founded upon Christian principles: Ill - Radio Talk Show Host and a call-in listener were talking about Christianity in America. As the conversation continued, the host, who is an avowed agonistic, said, "Why do Christians think they had anything special to do with the founding of this country... Anybody who reads history books knows that Christianity was no more involved in America's founding than any other religion." Unfortunately and inaccurately that seems to be the prevalent thought of many Americans today. But the truth of the matter is we are a nation that has been shaped by the Judeo-Christian ethic found throughout the Bible. We are a Biblical nation from our very roots. It is safe to say that the Christian faith was involved in practically every aspect of our nation's beginnings

Christopher Columbus in 1504 wrote his reason for setting forth to discover a new land to be:

"I was led of the Holy Spirit to carry the message of the Gospel to undiscovered lands."

You all are familiar, of course, with the Pilgrims who came there to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower. Just as they landed, they joined together in what is called the Mayflower Compact in 1620. These are the words of the Mayflower Compact: "In the name of God, amen. Having undertaken for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith, do solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, covenant and combine ourselves together."

In 1643, just about 23 years later, as more and more people came to the shores and up in New England, the Puritans formed a confederation called The New England Confederation; this was the first written constitution, of groups meeting together in 1643. The New England Confederation Constitution began: "Whereas we all came into these parts with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our lord Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity and peace." America was founded by men and women who acknowledged God's supreme rule over our lives. The Puritans, realizing the backslidden state of the Church of England set forth to America for the stated purpose of showing how a nation could prosper it citizens lived under the laws of God. As our nation began to take shape the commitment of its founders is clearly seen in the documents that were drafted as each state organized itself.

The Delaware Charter defines the purpose of their Colony, "To further propagate the Holy Gospel." The Virginia Charter assures the right for people to live in "Christian peace" and instructs the people to: "Propagate the Christian religion to such people who yet live in ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God." The Rhode Island Compact: "We submit our persons, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords." Listen to the voice of our founding fathers and here the spiritual commitment in what they say:

George Washington's Personal Prayer Book: Consider these words from his personal prayer book: "Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb and purge my heart by the Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thy son, Jesus Christ."

John Quincy Adams who would become the 6th President said later in 1821 about the Declaration of Independence. He said: "From the time of the Declaration of Independence, the American people were bound by the laws of God and the laws of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they all acknowledge as the root of their conduct. We all came together to obey the word of God." - he was also the chairman of the American Bible Society.

Patrick Henry: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or to often that this great nation was founded not but religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Even President Thomas Jefferson in an address to Danbury Baptist: "The 1st amendment has created a wall of separation between church and state, but that wall is a one directional wall, it keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government." By the way, Jefferson wrote on the front of his Bible these words: "I am a Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.

Benjamin Franklin: I've seen a painting of the first Continental Congress. And many of you have heard the story of how they were discussing and they were debating about how the Declaration of Independence would be written. And finally, Ben Franklin stood and said, "Gentlemen, if it is true that not one single petal from any flower falls to the ground without escaping God's attention, will the distress of this nation go unheeded? Let us therefore determine to seek His face." At that suggestion 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence all went to their knees as one man and began to pray and seek the wisdom of God. By the way did you know that out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence -- 53 of them were professing Christians? Wouldn't it be wonderful today if our congress would go to their knees in prayer, wouldn't it be wonderful today if the Supreme Court, would just get on their knees like our forefathers did and say, "Almighty God, what do you want for this nation?"

In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: "The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools."

Do you know where the framers of our nation got the idea of three branches of government?

Remember that we have an Executive Branch, we have a Legislative Branch that makes laws, and we have a Judicial Branch. Write this reference down: Isaiah 33:22. "For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us." Isaiah 33:22 which refers to God in those same three aspects as our government. "For the Lord is our Judge [that's judicial], our Lawgiver [that's legislative], and our King [that's executive]. It is He who will save us." And when the framers of our government got together and said, "How can we best organize our government?" They looked to the word of God for the wisdom needed and for His righteousness.

Now think of the role the Christian Church and its pastors played in America's early days. A Preacher named Frances Bellemy wrote our "Pledge of Allegiance."

Another Preacher, Samuel Smith wrote the Hymn "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

John Leland another Preacher wrote the introduction of the first Amendment to the Constitution.

Prior to the War Between the States, 90% of all of America's College Presidents were Preachers of the Gospel.

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, William and Mary and Columbia were founded by Christian preachers and church affiliations with the expressed intent to educated youth for Christ.

John Harvard a Pastor in Charlestown, Massachusetts and the man for whom Harvard University was named stated that the purpose of the University was, "That every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main ends of his life and studies: to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the foundation of all knowledge and learning, and see that the Lord only giveth wisdom. To let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek Christ Jesus as Lord and Master." Even Harvard's original seal, which can be seen on the campus today, states these words, "Truth for Christ and the Church."

American's first schoolbook was the "New England Primer." It has the Lord's Prayer on its cover. It taught the alphabet in Theological verse. A. In Adam's fall we sinned all. B. It's Heaven to find, the Bible's mind. C. Christ crucified for sinners died.

The Influence of God upon the founding of our great nation is so evident that no one who was a student of historical accuracy would reasonably deny it. They weren't perfect. They weren't all fundamentalist Christians, but they all to a man acknowledged that God was the supreme ruler over man and over government.

Despite what modern politicians, the contemporary media or the history revisionists say - America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship any God (Buddha, Allah..etc) but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ.


-- Return To The Christ Who Captivated The Hearts Of Our Founding Fathers.

Proverbs 14:34 "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."

Psalm 33:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance."

(a) He is a real God, the true God, not man made, imagination or fiction (b) Because His laws are just and good, and their observance will always tend to promote the public welfare and prosperity; (c) Because His protection will be provided to such a nation; and (d) Because His worship, and the influence of our faith in Him, will tend to promote virtue, intelligence, purity, and truth, over a land, and thus will promote the welfare of the nation. HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

Wake Up To a Different World.

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11) Many people have heard of Rip Van Winkle, but they don't know the details of the story. Rip Van Winkle was a short story written in 1819 by Washington Irving. Rip was a man living in America before it was a nation. He had a nagging wife, so one day Rip walked out to the Catskill Mountains where he met some strange little men who gave him a drink. He fell asleep and didn't wake up for 20 years. Meanwhile, the War of Independence had been fought and won. Rip wandered back into town and expressed his loyalty to King George and he was treated like a traitor. He woke up and didn't realize the world had changed. I fear the church has been sleeping and we are unaware the world has changed drastically over the past two decades.

As much as we'd like to go back to the "good old days" when there was a national acceptance of the Judeo-Christian morality, we aren't living in those days. There was a time when majority of Americans were Christians and those who weren't had a healthy respect for God and the Bible. Those days are gone. In many ways, America reflects whatever happens in Europe. One hundred years ago, Christianity was predominate in Europe, but now Europe is a post-Christian secular society. In London there are now more mosques than churches, and many more Muslims attend prayer on Friday than Christians go to church on Sunday. And this is a nation where just a little over 100 years ago the great Welsh revival sweep through Britain and churches were packed. It has happened in Europe and unless we wake up, it will happen here.

That's the message Jesus spoke to the church in Sardis. He said, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent." (Revelation 3:2-3) Jesus is saying we must remember what made our nation a great country and repent and return to those basic Biblical standards. President Woodrow Wilson said: "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know what it is today." We need to wake up to what's happening right here in America.


We need to wake up and then lift up prayers for America. We should be storming heaven with our petitions for our nation. From the beginning of our nation God has been intervening on our behalf. There were miraculous stories of God's protection during the Revolutionary War, and I'll tell you about a specific instance of Divine intervention in a few minutes. Any honest student of history must agree that God was with our troops at Valley Forge, and He was with our men at Normandy.

But some have wondered how long we can depend on God's protection. After 9/11 and the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz said: "For years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and his protection if we demand that He leave us alone?" God's Word is clear about His promise to answer prayer when a nation needs healing. He says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) The burden for the health of our nation does not rest on who is in the White House, or the State House, or the Court House but on the people in the Church House, it rests on you and on me. We need to cry out to the Lord on behalf of our nation and its leadership. get desperate before the Lord. Not "now I lay me down to sleep" kind of prayer. Not "Good food, good meat, good Lord, let's eat" kind of prayer. But prayer that lines up with the will of God, prayer that reaches the heart of God, prayer that moves the hand of God.

Few people take the time to read the verses right after 7:14 It's not nearly as pleasant, because it predicts what happens to a nation that doesn't repent and seek God. 2 Chronicles 7:19 says, "But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you ... then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them ... I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples." What a promise and a warning!


Most Christians are ignorant about the culture in which we are now living. We have used the church as a fortress where we hide from the world. We want to escape from the big bad world and its influences. But that's a defeatist approach. Jesus never told us to retreat, He told us to CHARGE into the world and to carry the good news. Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) Some Christians have taken this advice to become as mean as snakes and as flighty as doves! But Jesus was telling us to wise up to the ways of our culture without conforming to the culture. Jesus didn't say to become snakes; He said we must become as wise as snakes while remaining as innocent as doves. Daniel Webster said: "God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it." If we're going to guard and defend our liberty, we must understand those forces that are threatening it.


We must WAKE up; LIFT up prayers; WISE up, and we must be willing to stand up for righteousness and truth in a culture that is becoming more wicked by the day. The Apostle Paul wrote: "Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." (Philippians 2:15-16) Our world is struggling in moral darkness and Jesus has called us to be the light of the world. Our culture is rotten and getting more corrupt and Jesus has called us to be the salt of the earth.

For too long Christians have been guilty of the sin of silence. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 26 years old with a one-year old daughter when he was called as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He had been raised in a rather affluent African- American family in Atlanta and had attended the finest schools available to him. The city was in turmoil because one of his members, Rosa Parks, had been arrested when she had refused to move to the back of a city bus. He had received a midnight phone call with this message: "We are tired of you and the mess you've caused. If you aren't out of town in three days, we're going to blow your brains out and blow up your house." As Dr. King thought about his one-year old daughter, he was greatly tempted to leave Montgomery and not get involved. But then he asked himself if this was the kind of world he wanted his daughter to grow up in and he decided he would take a stand. Dr. King later said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

As Christians, we need to ask ourselves the same question. Is this the kind of nation we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in? If you think some changes need to be made, then it's time for us to be silent no longer. We must stand up for truth and righteousness because if we don't, nobody else will.

so we cannot afford to be silent. But when we do speak out, have you noticed how the critics cry foul, claiming "Separation of Church & State," and saying: "You don't have a right to speak about public policy and law! Go cower in your church, lock yourself in your little stained glass prison, and stay there!" And that's exactly what the devil wants--the salt shackled in the sanctuary and the light locked up in the church house.

But the last time I checked Christians are not second class citizens of America. Your voice needs to be heard. In fact, the Bible commands it. Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth... the light of the world!" (Matt. 5:13-16). The Bible says "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!" (Ps. 107:2). That's you and that's me. God urged his people: "Shout it aloud! Do not hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet! Declare to my people their rebellion, and to the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1). You find examples throughout the Bible.

* Moses petitioned Pharaoh for the liberty of God's people. Nathan confronted King David for his sinful actions as a leader.

* Elijah faced off against King Ahab who promoted idolatry and immorality.

* Isaiah condemned moral decay in the culture.

* Amos inveighed against injustice in society. Daniel pronounced judgment on King Nebuchadnezzar for promoting idolatry.

* John the Baptist pointed out the adultery of King Herod.

We must stand up and let our voices be heard in the same way and persuade our government of the eternal and infallible truths of God's word and how these principles apply to the policies and laws of our nation.

We need to stand up with righteous indignation and say: "Killing babies in a mother's womb is wrong!" We need to speak out with moral outrage and say: "Redefining marriage to include homosexuals is wrong!" We need to remind those black robed tyrants masquerading as judges about America's Judeo-Christian foundations, and with holy fury shout: "Taking away our religious heritage is wrong!" Sometimes we must stand up to our government and say: Enough is enough!

September 11 is an important date in our history.

On September 11, a foreign enemy attacked America's largest seaport. There was smoke and fire that obscured the horrible loss of life from the explosions. But I'm not talking about September 11, 2001, I'm talking about September 11, 1814. British sea forces started bombarding Ft. McHenry at Baltimore, Maryland, America's largest seaport at the time. It is called the War of 1812, and most Americans don't realize how close we came to surrendering our tenuous independence that had been won only thirty years earlier. Three weeks earlier, British General Robert Ross made a tactical error. Instead of attacking Baltimore immediately, he attacked Washington D.C. which had only 8,000 residents, half of whom were slaves. There was little resistance, and the British captured Washington easily. President James Madison fled earlier in the day, but Dolly Madison had remained at the White House setting her huge table with forty places for what she hoped would be a victory banquet. She stayed until she saw the British soldiers approaching the White House. She quickly took a painting of George Washington down from the wall, cutting it from its frame and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. The enemy soldiers entered the White House and found the table set for a banquet with food in the kitchen. General Ross and his officers sat down and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, courtesy of the First Lady. Then they set fire to the White House and other public buildings. Dolly Madison watched from a nearby hillside as our nation's capital burned. However, the very next day, an unusual weather phenomenon occurred. Although hurricanes seldom make landfall around Washington, a violent hurricane roared ashore and two hours of torrential rain and winds extinguished the fires, and the White House wasn't completely destroyed. Tornadoes spawned by the hurricane killed more British soldiers than the battle of Washington itself! The weather was so bad General Ross decided to leave Washington rather than occupy it. As he was leaving he asked an American lady: "Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?" The lady answered, "No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Almighty God to drive our enemies from our city." Indeed, you won't read this in the history books, but that storm probably turned the tide and made the difference between defeat and victory in the War of 1812. Had Washington burned to ground and the British troops not been decimated by the storm, we might be loyal subjects of Queen Elizabeth to this day! But God intervened.

Then General Ross moved what was left of his troops north toward Baltimore. On the fateful date of 9/11, (September 11, 1814) he launched the attack on the final American stronghold of Fort McHenry that guarded the Baltimore harbor. He sent orders for the ships in the harbor to start shelling the Fort. On the next day, September 12, General Ross was fatally wounded by an American teenage sniper as he led his troops. Ross was carried to a ship for medical attention and died there.

Meanwhile, a lawyer from Baltimore who was also a published hymn writer rowed out under a flag of truce to one of the British ships to discuss a prisoner exchange with the British officers. He successfully negotiated the exchange, but because the bombardment of the Fort had commenced since he had boarded the ship, he wasn't allowed to sail back toward Baltimore. It was a fierce attack on Fort McHenry. The British Navy was the strongest in the world and had the most modern weapons of the time. They fired over 1,500 shots at Fort McHenry including the new Congreve Rockets that left red trails of sparks as they streaked through the sky. ("the rockets' red glare") The ship cannons shot bombs with delayed fuses that often exploded in the sky before they reached the target ("the bombs bursting in air"). The commander of Ft. McHenry was Major George Armisted. He realized the importance of this battle for the future of the young nation. So to inspire his troops, he ordered a huge battle flag to fly over the fort. It was 40 feet long and 32 feet wide with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes to represent the 15 young states. To give you a feel for the size of the flag, each red and white stripe was two feet tall.

The young lawyer and hymn writer was forced to watch the terrible bombardment from the British ship in the harbor. As the sunset and night fell, he caught glimpses of the huge flag. Throughout the night it was often obscured by the smoke of the bombing. He watched the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, and he wondered if there would even be a fort, or a flag, or a nation by the next morning. Because of the constant bombing, it was impossible to sleep, so early the next morning the young hymn writer, Francis Scott Key, rushed to the rail of the ship to see the damage. The early eastern sun lit the fort and as the gentle breeze blew the smoke away, there was silence, because the British had expended all their ammunition. He saw an amazing sight. There fluttering in the morning breeze was the huge flag--tattered from shrapnel, but still proud. He was so moved he wrote down a hymn on the back of a letter he had in his pocket. That hymn later became our national anthem.

Listen to his words again: "O! Say can you see by the dawn's early light; What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" That hymn was sung and played for years after the War of 1812, but it wasn't until 1932 that it became our official national anthem. All of us who love America also love the flag and the national anthem, but notice the first stanza ends with a question. DOES the star-spangled banner yet wave over our land? It does now, but for how much longer?

Francis Scott Key's question is answered in the rest of his hymn. The biggest problem with our national anthem is that we stop singing with the first stanza and most people don't even know there are four full stanzas. You should read all of them, but the last stanza is the best one. It doesn't end with a question; it ends with a powerful declaration. And it is a declaration that America needs to wake up and rediscover. Let's let it speak for itself: "O! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand; Between their loved home and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land; Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.' And the star-spangled banner in triumph SHALL wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

America, wake up! Wake up and rediscover this simple truth, that as long as our motto is: IN GOD IS OUR TRUST, then we will remain a great nation. America needs some modern Paul Reveres. We need to rouse our culture about the dangerous threats we face.

Close: The Liberty bell was not meant to be hidden under the floorboards of a church. A bell is meant to be rung for all to hear. We are called to "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof!" Jesus said in his first sermon following his temptation in the wilderness: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4: 18-19) A bell does no good if it is not rung. A gospel does no good if it is not proclaimed.