Let Freedom Ring
Looking back on the fourth, I’m always thankful for a week to celebrate the goodness God has allowed our nation. Sunday I was able to preach that famous passage from Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” God’s words of liberty are always more than words. They/He gives us the ability to stand up and not go back to the life that enslaved us before. Fireworks always go off in my heart as I reflect on all God has done for us. 

I read two books building up to the fourth. One was Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.” If you haven’t ever cracked this book, it’s worth your time. It tells the story of a hundred (or more) different lives and the roles they played in WWII. What struck me more than anything was the unity that gripped our nation during those years. From the soldiers overseas to the factories at home, from the rubber drives to the victory gardens, everyone did their part for freedom. And when they returned, no one could forget those dark years and all they’d overcome. 

The other book I read was Matt Carter and Aaron Ivy’s “Steal Away Home.” It struck a deep chord with me. It’s the story of Thomas Johnson, a freed slave from Virginia, and Charles Spurgeon, a famous London pastor in the 1800’s. Johnson was raised on a plantation outside of Richmond. He spent the first 28 years of his life fearing the beating that would come if he stepped out of line and dreaming of the freedom that could never be his. One night he snuck out of his cabin with the intent of running. Hiding in the shadows of another slave house, he heard the quiet voice of Ezekiel, an older slave and friend. He cracked the door and Ezekiel invited him to join their circle. These were believing slaves, praying, worshipping Jesus and reading His Word together. That night Johnson enjoyed the freedom he never thought would be his. 

Johnson went on to celebrate the victory of the Union Army with every other freeman. He migrated to Chicago and began pastoring. A couple from England joined the church and began discipling Thomas and his new wife, teaching them to read and write and study the Scriptures. Soon, Thomas began to sense God was calling his family to Africa, to share the Good News of Jesus with his kin. The believing couple from England invited them to join them on their return trip home and worked to secure a spot for Thomas at Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College. The two pastors became fast friends. Thomas’ understanding of slavery and Charles burdens of pastoring were a blend the two were eternally grateful for. I cried as I read Thomas speak Spirit-filled words to this battle-hardened pastor; words I needed to hear; words of freedom. 

I imagined, as I read these two books built around two wars our country endured and the two different kinds of liberty ensued, the battles that took place. I imagined the horrible, face to face offensives of the Civil War, the atrocities of the field hospitals and the ugliness of Sherman’s desecrating march. I imagined the sky filled with planes and the beaches with troops on D-Day; the day some 10,000 Allied soldiers met Jesus face to face. The cost of freedom is incredibly steep and is paid for with the blood of millions of brave soldiers. The best I can do is imagine these scenes, because I wasn’t there. I can read the stories and see the pictures, but I did not experience these wars first hand. I can only paint the pictures in my mind.

Then I thought about another war. In this battle, all the offensives of Heaven and Hell were lined up on the battle ground. The snarls and threats that came from the enemy’s side were horrifying. The blood lust in their eyes was evident. The armies of Heaven just stood still, proud and confident. At just the right time, God shared His battle plan. Rather than all of Heaven crashing down on the armies of Hell, God would send just one soldier into the battle. His Son would bear all the weight of Heaven’s D-Day. All the guns would be aimed at Him. All the wounds of all the soldiers would be on His back. And His blood, God said, would free all of humanity from the threat and lust of Hell. I don’t have to imagine this war, though. For me, it is first hand. You see, Jesus died for me. Not for my grandfather or my friend who was in slavery, but for me. He purchased my freedom with His own blood. Every bullet He took was one that did not have to pierce me. That horrible, dark day on the cross should have been mine, but it wasn’t. Not because of the leadership of a good general, but because of the love of our Creator, I can stand and not go back to slavery today. I am free because of Jesus. 

The beauty of these two stories is breathtaking for me. I am often grateful for my grandfather who fought on Japanese soil and my wife’s grandfather who fought on the beaches of Normandy. The freedom they earned for me and my family is enjoyed daily. I am eternally grateful for the battle Jesus fought. I am not a prisoner of Hell because of His victory. How silly it would be of me to live as if Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito were still in power. How equally ridiculous would it be for me to live as if I am still under satan’s awful regime. 

Thank God for freedom.