Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings

html transcript

WAYS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR FREEDOM Prov. 14:34 July 3, 2011 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction Prov. 13:34 I love our great country—with all of her faults and challenges—I love the United States. I am one of those of who believes in the exceptionalism of the United States of America. It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest nation in all the world and in all of history. And she is great because she is free. Freedom is what we celebrate over this July 4th weekend. Of course we all know times are tougher than they’ve been in awhile, the economy is teetering again, there is gridlock and scandal in Washington, the cynical season of pre-election political rivalry is already rife, and we’re all fed up with all the corruption. But this morning I want to encourage you to raise your vision a little higher, above the muck and mire, and let the fireworks and the flag-waving, the Star Spangled Banner, military flyovers and patriotic speeches spark in you a renewed sense of gratitude for this country you have been privileged to be born in—the freeest, safest and most prosperous nation in modern history. It is the unique right and responsibility of the Christian to be thankful. After all, we have been assured of our blessed hope for eternity to come, and in Christ have been given the keys to abundant life in this world. Add to that, the blessing of living in a nation where we are free to speak, write and worship as we choose. We have good reason to be grateful. So, at least for the weekend, if not only for this morning, let’s stop our bellyaching and look to God and remember those who have protected and preserved our freedoms, and sincerely say, “Thank you”. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Gratitude is the mother of all virtues.” I think he was right. Gratitude is, in fact, the essential state of mind for a Christian. We are privileged to be thankful and we are commanded to be thankful by the God who made us and redeemed us, and who knows perfectly what is good for us. The question I would like to address this morning is this: if we are to be grateful, what will that gratitude look like? I want to suggest three ways to be thankful for the freedom God has graced us and our nation with. Along the way I want to consider with you this great proverb captured and preserved in the book of Proverbs in your Bible at chapter 14, verse 34: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The way we look at our nation, the way we live our lives as conscientious citizens and the way we pray for, and try to improve, our country and our communities must first be informed by the perfect law and will of God. This verse very simply says that the greatness of a nation is dependent on that nation’s goodness. I believe everyone but a blockhead would have to agree with that. Alexis de Tocqueville was a French political expert and historian in the 19th century, who came to do extensive research on American culture for his book, Democracy in America. He wrote: “America is great because she is good (and if she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great) . . . The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” He wrote,” Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Wouldn’t it be satisfying to be part of a movement restore such strength to the USA? Wouldn’t it please God who has so richly graced this great land? It just might all begin with a few million Christian being thankful to God. Live the Right Kind of Life When we come to our Bibles with the simple question, How should I express my gratitude for my American freedoms?, one unclouded answer would be to live the right kind of life—a morally upright, ethically integral life. Not only is that an appropriate response to God from those who love Him, it is also the backbone of a healthy culture. Righteousness exalts a nation, insists Solomon. What is the right kind of living? It is living in response to God’s grace in your life, gratefully reflecting that grace in my behavior. 1 Peter 1:3 is just one of the terse reflections of what God has done for us: Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or face—kept in heaven for you… You’ve been delivered from godlessness A March, 2011, issue of The New York Times featured a story about a 51-year-old ex-convict named Robert Salzman. After a horrific childhood, Salzman spent most of his adult life in prison. When he was released from prison in 2001, Salzman found it difficult to enjoy freedom outside prison walls, struggling to pay rent or doing stints in homeless shelters. Finally, in June of 2010 Salzman had a grace-like experience. While he was riding a New York City subway car, he was "found" by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a writer and director who was looking for someone to play a tough-looking former convict for an upcoming film. In his audition, Green surprised nearly everyone with a most remarkable reading, and went on to a stellar performance I the shooting of the film. But at times Salzman still couldn't believe that he was free from his former life. On one occasion, while filming with Green on location in a Long Island penitentiary, Salzman fell asleep on a cot in the prison cell. When he woke up, he became confused and thought he was still a prisoner. Salzman started weeping in despair … until it slowly dawned on him that he was now a free man. Salzman was overwhelmed by the joy of knowing that at any moment he could walk out of that cramped cell and through the prison doors. On the other side of the prison walls he could enjoy his new life of freedom. As those who trust in Christ, regardless of our past, we can leave our slavery to sin and condemnation as we joyfully step into our freedom in Christ. We who have come to know Christ and have received forgiveness that removes our guilt and the freedom from condemnation it brings are now free, as Romans six says, from our old bondage to sin. You are empowered for godliness But more than that, in 2nd Peter 1:3 we are told that we have been given a conquering gift—a power through the Holy Spirit—to be able to live a godly life. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Do you think God saved us from our sins and placed His Holy Spirit in us just to make us happy? No, He has a purpose in all this. We are not to live just for ourselves—our own happiness and fulfillment. We are called to live for Him, demonstrating His love and grace to those around us. You are called to live for God Increasingly, today's young people know little or nothing about the American moral tradition. This was recently demonstrated by Tonight Show host Jay Leno. Leno frequently does "man-on-the street" interviews, and one night he collared some young people to ask them questions about the Bible. "Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?" he asked two college-age women. One replied, "Freedom of speech?" Mr. Leno said to the other, "Complete this sentence: “Let he who is without sin..." Her response was, "have a good time?" Mr. Leno then turned to a young man and asked, "Who, according to the Bible, was eaten by a whale?" The confident answer was, "Pinocchio." A knowledge and appreciation of the foundational values of morality and civility in our country has been lost on an entire generation, if not 2 or 3 generations. But these values are not beyond being restored, as they are lived out by people of faith. In a culture that is already turning dark, we are called to live like children of light, and we are privileged to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Your life and your voice is God’s instrument for influencing others. So live for Him that others may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven. Pray the Right Kind of Prayer Forgiven and indwelt by His Spirit, we are perfectly equipped to live the right kind of lives before God and the world around us. That’s why believers in Christ are uniquely able to live in thankful response to Him. Above that, there is a second aspect of a life of gratitude that is not only fulfilling to us, but glorifies God as we live it out. We are called to pray the right kind of prayer. Prayers of humility In 2nd Chronicles 7:14, God gave Solomon wise counsel for what the nation of Israel should do when they strayed from Him. He said, If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. There it is—a prescription written by God for the healing of a morally sick country. And it begins with humility. If my people… will humble themselves and pray. This is God’s favorite prayer: when we come before Him in humility and admit our faults. Why? Because it is the only way we get past our pride and see ourselves in the proper light before our God. He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Joseph Bernardin said: “If we are honest, we must admit that much of our time is spent pretending. But when we turn to God in prayer, we must present our real selves, candidly acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses and our total dependence on him.” Prayers of intercession for nation, world When we humbly admit our sin and repent, God is honored and pleased. Not because some huge ego need in Him is met, but because He knows what is best for us. And it is not good for us to proudly go on pretending we are our own bosses. That’s why it is supremely better for us to pledge our allegiance to the United States as “one nation under God” than to pretend we are just fine going our own way. Righteousness exalts a nation and there is no better foundation of righteousness than humble repentance of sin to make ourselves right with God. John Adams, signer of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and 2nd president of the US, warned his fellow countrymen stating, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Because one will take advantage of freedom and be ungrateful; the other will use freedom responsibly and for an opportunity to do good, and that one will be thankful. Once our relationship is made right with God and we are forgiven, we are given a high and holy calling: to pray for our country, our world and the people around us to likewise come to faith in God through Christ. We are not given the promises of God just to keep for ourselves, but we are called to share them with others. The first and best thing we can do is pray for them, and pray for opportunities to share the saving message of Christ with them. Prayers for healing, restored morality and sustained freedom Our faithful prayers should be for the healing of our morally sick nation. If my people…will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land. It is our tendency when we hear through news sources all the bad things going on in our nation to shake our heads in disgust and regret and say, “This nation’s going to hell in a hand basket.” But God says there is something we can do about it: pray! It’s no wonder that the apostle Paul said that above all else, he urged that …requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, especially governors and civic authorities, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. He then said, This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… Be the Right Kind of Witness Reaching others with the good news of the gospel of Christ is a high priority with God, and that divine goal is worthy of our prayer and our effort. So, along with living the right kind of lives and praying the right kind of prayers, we are called also to be the right kind of witnesses to those around us. Here is where our right kind of living and praying come together to influence our nation for good and godliness. The Bible tells us how to do it. Edifying words of hope and healing Our world is starved for nice conversation. On the news there is a constant barrage of bad news, an increasing amount of hateful political speech and dire warnings about this food or that energy crisis. I think people are more ready than ever for some good news and some nice, courteous, pleasant speech. Some speech with a message of hope and healing. If I am right, then our culture is finally ripe for the Christian message. The Bible gives us clear teaching about how we bring about this good and godly influence. Nowhere is it more clearly and concisely stated what our calling is than in 1 Peter 3:15-16. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. What would it be like if, suddenly, about two thirds of our country stopped yelling, started softening their voices and speaking kind and encouraging words—words that would bless everyone who hears them? What would happen? Can you imagine, a million and a half people being aggressively nice to others! This is what we are called to do with our speech, brothers and sisters. To speak in such a way that whoever hears us, or overhears us, will be edified. To open our mouths every time with the clear intent to bless the persons we are talking to. There is no more blessed communication than the gospel of Jesus. It informs people how they can have their lives renewed and infused with hope. Winsome life of gentleness and respect Admittedly, the gospel has a dose of bad news with it—the fact that everyone is a sinner in need of a Savior. Nobody likes to be reminded of this truth, against which most people most of the time bury their heads in the sand and try to ignore. But Peter says we are to speak and act with gentleness and respect. Somebody said it’s one thing to warn people they are going to hell, but it’s quite another to act like you’re happy about it! As those whose lives are being gloriously transformed by the grace and power of Christ, we ought to be most willing to share this good news of salvation with others and always be ready with an answer for this hope within us—with gentleness and respect. Agent of God’s saving grace So it is important for us to keep in mind that we are not only saved by God’s grace, but we are also conscripted by Him to serve as His agents of grace in our world. He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Cor. 5) Once again, imagine a country flooded with people who are grateful, humble before God, deliberately gentle and respectful, sharing good news and serving as lights in a dark culture. Do you think God could effect change in America? Then we could be even more grateful. Righteousness exalts a nation…     [ Back to Top]          
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more