True Freedom—Nothing but the Truth!
Without question, Americans are never more dialed into the subject of freedom than on the Fourth of July. We talk about it, sing about it, consume mass quantities of food to commemorate it, and, as a nation, hit the collective pause button to celebrate one of our greatest attributes. We are free…and we want the whole world to know it. Accompanied with fireworks, parades, big concert events, and as much noise as we can generate, we pound our national chest, so to speak, and declare to the global community that we are different.
Most of us can tick off rather quickly a laundry list of freedoms we enjoy, including speech, religion, assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, a free press, etc. Not a bad starter kit for any nation. Ours is the land of opportunity, we say. And once again we affirm our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But what is it that makes us free, and more importantly, what will keep us free? Many would argue that the foundational tenets that helped construct such a nation are no longer commonly shared. They would contend that the gap grows greater between the original vision of our forefathers and what we have become: an emerging society of individualists with an ever—increasing demand for personal rights. We the people has become Me the person.
Many of the statesmen who were “in on the ground floor” believed freedom to be
God-given and that an acknowledgement of this fact was critical to our nation’s survival. Those “voices” are now being drowned out by cries for personal liberty at any cost, devoid of any absolute moorings.
Listen to just a few of those early patriots:
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 that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.
God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure
when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity… to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.
The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.
We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.
Samuel Adams (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)
We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!
John Adams and John Hancock, Founding Fathers
The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth.
The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effective means of limiting Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools.
Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
For all their careful engineering of a lasting union, it is clear that these architects, at least, could not conceive of such liberty apart from that nation being under God. For anyone wishing to challenge this, merely consider the inscriptions on many public buildings and government institutions dating back to the country’s beginnings. References to the Bible—Old and New Testament—abound. And yet some examples of such scripture usage are taken clearly out of context. It reminds me of a church in the Midwest which posted scripture quotations above the entrances to its many departments. I’m sure with tongue planted firmly in cheek, they had chosen this verse for over the doors of the nursery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51
I remember a Bible quote from the gospel of John on the main building of the University of Texas years ago while attending college in Austin. It said simply, “YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.” My initial reaction was, “cool, a Bible passage on a state university building.” But it only took me a moment to realize that it had been lifted significantly out of context to imply that knowledge, learning, education—that kind of truth—was the key to freedom. In fact, the verse that was quoted was from John 8:32.
In certain translations, that passage actually begins with the word then. Then ye shall know the truth… Dropping the word then was not a small detail. Usually, a phrase beginning with the word then is preceded by a condition, starting with a word like if or when. And in this case the if is a biggie. Verse 31 of John reads: “If you continue in my Word (or hold to my teaching), you are my disciples indeed. It is followed by the famous [then] “you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
Four verses later, Jesus makes another audacious statement. “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” Free indeed? This would suggest a type of freedom which isn’t real freedom. How can He make such a statement? The answer is simple. He is not just a truth-talker. He is truth. Later in John’s gospel, Jesus made this claim: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” What is He saying? Jesus=Truth=True Freedom. We have two choices:
Receive Him. Trust Him. Follow Him. Know freedom.
Reject Him. Trust yourself. Follow anyone else. No freedom.
Those responsible for inscribing a verse from John’s gospel over the entrance of a public university chose to omit other key verses which would make its meaning clear. Maybe they had a limited budget and could only afford so many letters. Maybe there wasn’t enough space for more verses. Or maybe they chose to take advantage of a respected holy book to add weight to their own ideology, and purposefully left out what the one being quoted really meant to say? Think about it. What is more audacious than to selectively choose what part of a particular quote we will use simply to perpetuate our own philosophy? If we are to be a free people, free to think and free to choose, shouldn’t we at least start with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
This fourth of July, let us gratefully acknowledge once again the rare privileges and freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Let us resolve to leave this great country a better place upon our departing. But let us resist any movement to rewrite our history to make it more closely resemble our current definition of freedom. The Truth, indeed, will make us free.” Nothing but the Truth. And you know His name.