This post is not consistent with my other material so be aware. This is a copy of my presentation to my church (Grace Church of Dupage) that I gave this last Sunday.
Good Morning. Let’s see, you might be asking yourself it’s not a military holiday, why is Tom up there? Well, I’m up here to help us all remember that Wednesday is the Fourth of July; you know the national barbecue and fireworks festival.
Of course that’s not really why we’re here. Yes, Wednesday is the Fourth of July and although it’s not a military holiday it is a holiday whose true meanings are often given lip service or are overlooked completely.
While the Fourth of July is the date everyone remembers, that is the date the document was completed and signed. Most people don’t know that it was on June 7th that it really all started when Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution that ultimately became the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is the line most people remember. It is the fundamental reason behind the justification of the founding fathers to rebel against Great Britain and create a new nation. While this phrase pays homage to no one religious expression, it is clearly a recognition of God as the Creator and us, as the created, forming a nation seeking to acknowledge the rights he has given us and endeavoring, ultimately, to defend those rights. Christ died on the cross for each of us individually to give us the eternal gift of salvation and an eternity in Heaven with God – this is the ultimate expression of life (eternity), liberty (the freedom from sin and the failure and punishment it brings), and the pursuit of happiness (the blessings we receive from God for our obedience to His Word). We have existed as a nation with these as our founding principles for 236 years. We are still operating under this thought as codified in our Constitution. I don’t believe that any country has been governed for this long, by the same essential set of principles and governing structure.
Often when I’m in front of you, I try to help us all remember that individuals were involved in making happen these things that we see as God’s blessings. You see, God works through his Creation whether they are believers or not. It is not well-known that when the Declaration of Independence was passed, it was not passed unanimously. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor, two voted no, Delaware could not make up their minds, and New York voted present, uh, abstained. Our country was not united in its revolution against the British; it should come as no surprise that we were not united in our declaration. Our revolution and our founding were as fractious and rebellious as our sin nature directs us to be. Despite that and despite the troubles we experience today, which we’ve experienced throughout our existence as a nation, we continue to be blessed by God.
So, when we think of the Declaration of Independence, we don’t see a military action where believers and nonbelievers are putting their lives on the line for us. But that is actually a false perception. Reflect for a moment on this extract from the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: “we, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions (that means “look into our hearts and help us to have God’s motives for what we are doing”), do, in the name, and authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states … And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
You see, these men recognized what they were doing; they were committing an act of treason against Great Britain. They were not hiding from what they were doing; they signed their names to this document and then published it for the world to see. It is said that the reason John Hancock wrote his name so large was so that King George would have no trouble reading it. Instead of fear, or hiding, they placed their faith, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world” and “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” to protect them for doing what they felt was the right thing to do.
The men who signed this declaration were not all believers. None of them were actually captured or tortured or tried for signing this document. Many did not prosper during the war; some lost all they had, but not directly because of their signature. That is history’s view of their act, a view that they could not share, nor know, at the time that they appended their name to the Declaration of Independence. They were seeking to replace a government of men with a government of laws based on God’s principles of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Today we continue to be pressed to accept a government of men, not constrained by laws or the Constitution, men who wish to be allowed to decide for us what is right and wrong, what is to be enforced and what is to be ignored, what constitutes acceptable ministry and what belongs in private – kept away from society, separated from the “State”. We may need, in the near future, to examine how we can join the founders and do our part to help preserve what is the heart of American Exceptionalism – individual liberties as given to us by our Creator and personal responsibility and accountability as demanded by Him through our obedience to God’s laws and precepts.
I ask you this week to reflect on that … while you enjoy being a carnivore and making things go boom in the night.