"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
This is the infamous, most quoted section of the Declaration of Independence, the original source of our celebration every July 4th. It seems that much has been lost over the years in our focus on a national holiday that, like many holidays, has become more about barbecues, fireworks and fun rather than reflection, consideration and thankfulness. The founding fathers of our country identified some very basic things that we as believers in Christ should also recognize with gratitude and gracious joy. First, they recognized two self-evident "truths" that did not need to be argued, debated or denied:
1) That all men are created equal
2) That we are given certain "rights" by our Creator (God) that cannot be taken away from us or surrendered (inalienable rights).
When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our "equality" is found in our newness of life and the immediate indwelling of His precious Holy Spirit. We are all the same at the foot of the cross when we come to Him in repentance and trust, and we are equal in His sight as siblings --His adopted sons and daughters-- when we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). The rights that we are given by God in Christ are too numerous to list here, but they include redemption, "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col 1:13-14), righteousness, "The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22), justification (freedom from penalty of sin) "...since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1), and sanctification (being made holy), "...may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:23). These are only a few of the rights we have as a result of our dependence on Christ.
The Declaration of Independence is more than just the first 36 very important words. This 1,340 word document goes on to discuss the value of human rights, the importance of national freedom, and it details a list of grievances that the American colonists at that time had against the British government and rule. This is a key indicator of the mindset of our forefathers and can also apply to the mindset of believers in Jesus. We should not only reflect upon our new life in Christ and our freedom from the dominion of sin because of Christ, but we should also consider our pursuit. The founding fathers called it the pursuit of happiness. We should pursue Christ and Him alone. It is in Christ that we will find true joy--not necessarily happiness--but joy that transcends happiness. Even as believers, we might have our own list of grievances at times when we come before the Lord, but He willingly listens to our list, giving us His peace as we unload our burdens on Him. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:6-7) The pursuit of Christ always promotes the peace of Christ in our hearts. Is your trust fully in Jesus today? Do you have His peace and His joy?
This Independence Day, declare your dependence on Christ, rejoice in your rights as His child, thank Him for the freedoms that you have in this country, and also in Him. Then rest in the joy and peace that only He can give.
God, my Creator, quicken my heart to pursue Jesus alone, not just happiness in this world. The declaration of my dependence on Christ is my most important declaration in life. Thank you for redemption in Christ and the riches you give us as your children. Amen.