This week as we celebrate Independence Day, Pastor Rob Sauers takes a look at the word “independence.”
The word independent means simply “not dependent,” not subject to the control of others, not requiring or relying on someone or something else, showing a desire for freedom. Freedom and liberty are related words and these are often the goals of independence. We want to be independent so that we have the freedom to do what we want.
Now, a certain degree of independence is a good thing and something we want to encourage. We want to raise our children with a certain amount of independence so that they will be prepared for the time when they go out and live on their own. We want to have jobs so that we are not dependent on family or the government or someone else financially. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul is warning against idleness when he says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” So, we have that encouragement to be independent of the help of others when it comes to making a living.
But, like so many things, our sinful nature takes this idea of independence too far. Our sinful nature tells us that we are independent creatures on a lifelong journey to deeper independence. We believe that life is about “finding ourselves.” We believe that the way to reach happiness is to follow our independent hearts wherever they desire, often forgetting about God along the way.
So, how does that work out for us? I’m afraid our desire for independence often doesn’t work out the way we hope it will. Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son wanted his independence from his father, no doubt thinking that his life of independence would be great. And how did that turn out? He ended up broke and eating the same food as the pigs. We often have that same sinful desire to be independent of God. We want to be independent of all of His rules that our sinful nature believes are there just to keep us from being happy. And so we live as if God doesn’t exist. And how often does that get us into all sorts of trouble?
The truth is, ultimately, we are not independent. God alone is. God alone is completely self-sufficient. We see it in his name: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). His existence is independent. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” All of the world is His. In Job 41:11 the Lord says, “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”
By contrast, we are completely dependent upon Him. First of all, we’re dependent on Him for our physical lives. Paul says in Acts 17:28, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And, we are also completely dependent on God for our salvation. Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 8:7 tells us that “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (There are our attempts to be independent at work – not wanting to be subject to God and thereby making ourselves His enemies). Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” There are some who would say that we can independently make a decision to be Christians, but these passages and others make it clear that we cannot. No, our salvation is totally dependent on God.
The good news is that we certainly can depend on Him for our salvation. We can depend on Him because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). We can depend on him because, as Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can also depend on God to keep us in the faith. 1 Peter 1:5 says, “[we] are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And we can depend on God to be with us as we go through the various trials we face in this world. 1 Peter 5:7 invites you to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
It certainly is a good thing to celebrate the independence of our country and the freedoms that we enjoy because of our independence as a nation. And it certainly is God-pleasing to be independent in some aspects of life. But perhaps, we should also take the time to celebrate our dependence on God – celebrating the fact that He sustains our physical life, He has given us new life, He keeps us in the faith, and we can depend on Him to be with us in whatever we face in this word.