But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
July 4th is a special holiday for Americans. Independence Day reminds us that freedom is precious and we are greatly blessed to possess the freedoms offered in this country. The smell of burgers and hotdogs sizzling on the grill outside and the bursting of fireworks in the sky become familiar on July 4th. We eat, maybe the Star Spangled Banner is played or the National Anthem, and then everyone watches fireworks and goes home. It’s become rather commonplace, another day for big sales events and flying an American flag.
While all the revelry abounds, many forget the history which led to the birth of our great nation. Beginning with the Pilgrims, who were originally members of John Helwys’ church in northern Europe, who came to this part of the world seeking the chance to worship God as they chose; later, the founding Fathers, in a desire to have a place where they could worship and live without pressure from tyrannical governments, fought for and formed the United States.
What makes this nation so unique? It is the freedoms we enjoy. The founding fathers, led by their faith and dependence on the Bible, wanted us all to have the freedom to worship or not worship, however we choose. This freedom came at a great cost, though. It was not easily won. During the Revolutionary War, 217,000 lost their lives and 6,188 suffered nonfatal injuries. That does not include the deaths of those from other countries or any Native American deaths. What a cost in lives for the freedom we enjoy today! From the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan War, 42,893,216 people have lost their lives. Over 42 million people have died, not including wars or battles since the Afghanistan War, defending the freedoms we enjoy today.
As U.S. citizens celebrate this Independence Day, let’s remember that cost that has been paid to purchase freedom — not just for a nation, but for all people! There was a war for all the human race in which freedom for all people was purchased. This freedom was purchased at great cost as well. The symbol of that cost is not a hillside of white crosses or the Tomb of the Unknown or a black wall of names. As precious as these symbols are to those who know them and the people they represent, they do not compare to the symbol of the Empty Tomb. This symbol transcends ethnic and national boundaries.
The Empty Tomb is the symbol of the cost of true freedom for all people — the cost of Jesus leaving the security and power of heaven and becoming earthbound and mortal (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the symbol of the degradation of crucifixion before a jeering and mocking mob. It is the symbol of an agonizing death on a cross when he had the power to prevent it. It is also the symbol of three days in the ground — Jesus literally lay his body down. But the words to this tune are different. “Find the cost of freedom, no longer in the ground.”
You see, the Empty Tomb is the sign of ultimate freedom. It is the reminder that we no longer have to fear death. All of our mortal fears are conquered. As the apostle Paul says:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:54-55 NLT).
For the Christian, Independence Day doesn’t come once a year. No, for Jesus’ followers, Independence day comes every Sunday! The early Christians met on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), Sunday, to take of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). This is their Independence Day. By the end of the first century, Sunday had become the Lord’s Day. On this day they remembered the Lord’s death and anticipated his return because freedom from death had been won. Independence Day is the day of the Empty Tomb! So as each Sunday approaches, let’s remember the cost of our freedom and give thanks!
Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Independence Day is the day of the Empty Tomb!
Though some of America’s “founding fathers” who delivered to us the national freedom we all enjoy were actually deists-like Jefferson and Franklin, it is interesting to review the following thoughts by them about our dependence on a sovereign Creator :
George Washington – 1st U.S. President
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” -The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.
John Adams – 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” -Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.
Thomas Jefferson – 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”
-The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.
William Blount – Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution, Governor of the Southwest Territory, appointed by President George Washington & first Democratic-Republican Senator of Tennessee.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” -Famous American Statesmen, p. 126.
Benjamin Franklin – Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; -Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790.
William Penn – Founder of Pennsylvania
“I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God; that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself.” -Treatise of the Religion of the Quakers, p. 355.