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Author: Joshua Ohlmann

Giving Up Our Freedoms

Giving Up Our Freedoms

The artist Norman Rockwell, famous for his paintings that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, created art depicting everyday life. Four of his most famous paintings somewhat capture the American Dream. These four paintings, “Freedom of Speech”, “Freedom of Worship”, “Freedom from Want”, and “Freedom from Fear”, encapsulate what it means to live in the United States. We have freedom. There are many countries in the Western World that are free, just like us. But it was not always so. What attracted many people to the United States in the first place was the freedom our country offered. Today, many people fear our freedoms are under attack. You can’t read the news these days without hearing something about gun control. Religion and our own God-given consciences are thrust under the microscope of social media message boards. Conversely, many individuals hail the movement to grant women freedom to murder unborn children as progress.

What will happen to our great country? What will happen to our right to express our opinions? What will happen to our right to worship God? What will happen to our right to defend ourselves? What will happen to Christians in this sin saturated world? I think the response we’d like to say is “Let them try and take our freedoms.” After all, we are Americans! We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave! But this response is not one centered on God’s Word but rather on our own sinful hearts. Because when it comes down to it, guns won’t save our souls, freedom of speech won’t save our souls, and even freedom of religion won’t save our souls. It is God alone who saves. For Christians it really doesn’t matter what freedoms we have or don’t have. We are God’s children before anything else.

Let’s look at some Biblical examples of individuals who lost their freedoms. In Acts 5 we read about Peter and the apostles preaching the Word of God. The high priest did not like this, and he threw them in jail. The freedom to preach God’s Word was taken away from these men. Most likely they knew what there were doing was going to ruffle feathers. And if they didn’t, they certainly knew after “an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’” (Acts 5:19-20)

After clearly disobeying the high priest the Apostles obeyed God and continued to preach at personal risk. I myself have never been at risk of serving jail time for telling others about God’s Word. But that’s because I live in the United States where I have the freedom to do this. If, and I pray it never happens, our government decided that it was illegal to preach and worship the one true God of the Bible, what are we to do? It’s simple. Keep on preaching and worshiping.

When the high priest confronted Peter and the apostles about preaching they simply said “We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32)

What a powerful response. Peter and the apostles, under attack by those in authority, by the power of the Holy Spirit stood firm in the faith and message of God’s Word. I pray that if I am ever in situation like these men, God would give me the strength to do the same.

Another familiar example from the Bible are the accounts of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These four men were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to abandon God and worship a false idol. All four men stood in the face of certain death and said, “No. We will worship God.” Do you think Daniel knew that God would shut the lions’ mouths? Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knew that God would preserve them from fire that was seven times hotter than normal?

When ordered by Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to his false god, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

What an astounding response. A powerful king who had just conquered their homeland was ordering them to worship a false god. And yet, the Holy Spirit filled them with the strength they needed to say “No” even though it meant they would most likely die an agonizing death.

Another example of a man preaching God’s Word when those in authority told him to stop is Martin Luther. As we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, I attended a joint service in Mankato. We concluded our special declaration of what we believe with “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” According to tradition, these words are said to be spoken by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms when asked to take back what he had written. Martin Luther refused to renounce his writings and replied, “I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” It is thought that Luther also said, “Here I stand, I can do no other…” before concluding with “God help me. Amen.” I recently read that many believe he did not actually say, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” But regardless of whether he said that or not, it is evident by the actions Luther took during his life that He stood on the Word of God and none other even though authorities in the church and state told him not to.

These three examples, two from Scripture and one from more recent history provide a solid answer for the Christian faced with losing their freedoms; worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.

Did you notice what was missing from all three of these examples? The freedoms that we are blessed with today are not addressed. Peter, the apostles, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, and Martin Luther may or may not have had those freedoms. But it doesn’t matter. Were Peter and the apostles allowed to carry weapons while they preached in Jerusalem after Jesus rose from the dead? Maybe, but maybe not. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were essentially slaves. And Martin Luther? It doesn’t appear that he was too concerned with a financially rewarding career. The Bible doesn’t label those freedoms a right of Christians and Luther’s thoughts didn’t dwell on them because, in the end, they don’t matter. Jesus instructed in Matthew 22:21, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The freedoms individuals are blessed with in this life are Caesar’s. Eternal life? That is God’s.

 

What should a Christian do if the government declares that individuals no longer have the freedom to own firearms? What should a Christian do if the freedom to defend themselves is taken away?

Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God.

 

What should a Christian do if the government takes away our freedom to pursue happiness?

Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God.

 

What should a Christian do if the government says abortion is a freedom that all have?

Worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.

 

What should a Christian do if the government limits the things we say?

Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God, even if the government says to do otherwise.

 

And what should a Christian do if the government takes away the freedom of religion?

Worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.

 

As Christians we are commanded to obey God (Acts 5:29), worship the Lord (Matthew 22:37), and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19)

After considering these examples of men who preached the Gospel in the face of opposition, one begs the question “Why?” Why not just stop preaching or worshiping God when ordered not to? Why stand on the Word of God when it would be easier to be a pacifist and live and let live? And why doesn’t it matter if the government takes away our freedoms? Because we are children of God and citizens of an eternal Kingdom that God is preparing for us. And ultimately, the only freedom that truly matters is the freedom from sin and the Devil. This freedom is ours and can never be taken away. God assures us of this in Romans 8:37-38. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is this promise that we can look to when we worry about what is happening in the world and here in the United States. It is this promise that gives us comfort in this present time with the freedoms we are blessed with. It is this promise that will give us comfort if, someday, we lose our freedoms. It is this promise that declares our freedom from sin is ours, never to be taken away.

If Norman Rockwell had painted The Four Freedoms today, would they look the same? Most likely his paintings would reflect the changes we are seeing in our freedoms. It seems that as Christians, our freedoms are under attack. God’s Word is abandoned in place of human reasoning. Our Biblical beliefs and morals are questioned and criticized. Our freedoms, instead of once uniting our country, seem to now polarize us. But, from a Biblical perspective, this makes sense. Sin is polarizing. There are those who are going to heaven and those who are not. While the freedoms we have in the United States are important and should be defended, our freedom we have as citizens of God’s Kingdom is far more important and needs no defending. It’s ours, and will always be ours. Praise the Lord for the freedom He gives us through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!