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Fourth reminds us of freedom from sin

When I was a child, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I liked fireworks, the picnics with fried chicken and homemade ice cream. Whether we were in Texas with the Baileys or in Colorado with the McBrides, I had dozens of cousins to play with.
The first time I asked about the holiday, my dad explained we were celebrating freedom from England, the independence of the United States. I did not understand all that meant until much later.
My sophomore year in high school, studying American history, I came to a much better understanding of what national and political independence really meant. But I learned even more as I read biographies of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and other early patriots.
I still love the holiday and enjoy the community celebration and activities. I am with my children and grandchildren. We don’t shoot fireworks, but we watch fireworks displays. We spend time in prayer thanking God for the wonderful freedom we have — individually and as a nation.
When I was 12, I decided to be baptized. We lived in San Lorenzo, Calif., and had to drive to Oakland to find a baptistery. I remember on the long drive back home thinking how wonderful it was to be free from sin. I actually prayed I might die that night — free of all sins.
I really did not understand much about what I had done that night. I knew what sin was, and I knew that baptism had washed away my sins. Through the years my understanding of sin has grown, and I realize that it brings eternal separation from the eternal God. I have gradually come to a fuller appreciation of what spiritual freedom is.
My mother, my aunt and the congregation where I grew up trained me to study the Bible each day. I knew a lot of Scripture, but I did not see the larger picture. In college, Roy Lanier Sr. helped me see the different relationships people had with God through the ages.
In Old Testament Survey, Lanier explained the nature of the relationship Adam had with God and how that relationship was different from the relationship Abraham had. Then he showed how the Law of Moses defined the nature of sin and righteousness, offering no permanent freedom from sin — only relief through annual sin offerings.
In my 20s, I began a serious, three-year study of John’s gospel. In that powerful narrative, I saw the amazing nature of Jesus as it was demonstrated in his teachings and his actions. His divine spiritual nature jumped out at me in my second or third study of the text. His frame of reference is a different landscape from those who know sin. He is free of sin and worldly connections because he is so keenly aware that God is his father who has all power on earth and in heaven.
One of John’s messages is that Jesus’ origin is different from any person who has lived because he had life before he took on human life. His clear mission in becoming flesh was to redeem — or make free — mankind from the cancerous power of sin.
John helps us understand the unique character of Jesus, who describes himself most often as the Son of Man. He also declares he is the Bread of Life, the light of the world, the gate for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way and the truth and the life, the vine. Clearly, Jesus offers us freedom from the materialism fundamental to our nature. Nowhere is that more evident than in his teaching about death and resurrection.
Not only does Jesus set us free from the burden and guilt of sin, but he also creates for us a new relationship with him and his father. He became our Savior by dying for the sins of all mankind. He offers us citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and a place in the family of God.
Once a year, we celebrate freedom and independence as a nation. We have picnics, wave flags and launch fireworks.
Because of our freedom from sin, we celebrate each Sunday to remember that we are redeemed by Jesus’ blood, that we have been adopted into God’s family and that we are part of God’s kingdom. Instead of shooting fireworks, we eat unleavened bread and drink wine to commemorate the body and blood of Jesus.
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Filed under: Insight

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