This month our nation celebrates its 242nd birthday, on the anniversary of the date of The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Of course, the War for American Independence would continue for another five-plus years, finally ending at the Siege of Yorktown on October 19, 1871. The official end of the war, and the recognition of our independence, came with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, which became effective May 12, 1784. Our constitutional republic—our form of government, truly the first of its kind in human history—would not be ratified until nearly 22 years after independence had been declared.
We usually take for granted what our Founding Fathers established; they, of course, could not and did not. At the close of the Declaration of Independence, “for the support of this Declaration,” they professed “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” The dictionary definition of reliance is “confident or trustful dependence.” Trust is another word for faith. The Founders expressed faith in Divine Providence, the Hand of God. In declaring this nation’s independence from another earthly nation, they declared our dependence on God. Not independence from God, but living in dependence upon Him! (Along those same lines, note that the Founders put “the freedom of religion” in the Constitution [and the first of the First Amendment freedoms, at that], not a “freedom from religion” as asserted by the likes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.)
By the way, America’s Founding Fathers got many of their ideas from the works of Protestant English and Scottish theologians. One example: the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” Those theologians correctly identified true happiness with the blessedness which Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount, and that blessedness they equated with righteousness. Christ is our Righteousness, and His righteousness in us leads us to act in godly, righteous, moral ways—not moralism, but godliness. How far the present understanding of “the pursuit of happiness” has fallen from that!
Now we embrace the full Faith of Christ, not just a few ideas drawn from it. Not that we can boast of this; rather, we embrace the Faith of Christ by God’s grace through faith in Christ. We know that true freedom cannot be taken by courts or conquerors. True freedom is the freedom Christ won for us, and it is eternal. We often state this freedom negatively, as freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Stated affirmatively, our freedom in Christ is freedom to be fully human as God created and intended us to be—lost in the Fall, and restored by Christ, in whose image we are newly created.
One lesson we can learn from our nation’s founding and hard-won independence is to realize just how long it took. It did not happen overnight, or even by the end of the War for Independence! And the Founders had no idea what the outcome would be. They planned, they stategized; but, they recognized such could come to naught. And they prayed, even putting their appeals to the Almighty in writing for posterity. The lesson we must take from this, and from Scripture: Living in dependence on God means complete surrender to Him. That is the only way forward for the believer, and the church.
Soli Deo Gloria,