Combating Independence Day Anxieties

On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.

1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.

2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.

If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!

Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.

As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.

3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.

Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.

This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.

4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.

Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,

“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).

Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?

© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

What is Still Good About America: An Evangelical Christian’s Perspective

What is Still Good About America: An Evangelical Christian’s Perspective.

What is Still Good About America: An Evangelical Christian’s Perspective

Yes, it is true that America may not be as strong as she once was.  Yes, it is true that our morals may be at an all-time low.  However, there are still many things that are good about America.  I would like to take a few moments as we near Independence Day to express some things in which America stills excels.

1.     American Freedoms

America is a land of freedom.  This is why many evangelicals and others fight so hard for the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech.  If these freedoms fall, where do people go to find that freedom?  There are many other nations that hold similar freedoms, but America has always been known as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

As of right now, we still have great freedoms.  We have the freedom to worship as we choose.  We still have the freedom to speak publicly, even if what we say is not popular.  I may not like what my atheist American citizens say, but I defend his or her right to say it.    There are many other freedoms that Americans enjoy.  As Independence Day, may I suggest that all Americans stand up for these freedoms.

2.     American Equality

America still excels at equality, for the most part.  Even though evangelical Christians have suffered the brunt of ridicule and shame in recent years, Americans still enjoy the ability to work, worship, and live their lives as they please without persecution.  This is another American virtue that is worth fighting for.

This is a biblical virtue, as well.  The Bible says, “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11, NASB).  This is true in the positive and the negative fashion.  God saves all through Christ Jesus who come to Him regardless of race, socio-economic standards, or gender.  God also judges impartially, as well.

Although America has suffered from time to time in this regard, she still strives to keep this virtue.  We may many times argue what this equality entails, but I feel that all red-blooded Americans would fight to keep this standard.

3.     American Values

Although her values have been changing in recent times, America still holds to certain values.  The value of hard work is held by many Americans.  Yes, exceptions could be made.  However, I challenge you to look at the values of those working as farmers, police officers, firemen, and others.  Although there are many who do not rise to the occasion, many Americans still value things like a hard day’s work, caring for one’s family, and striving to do what is right.  These values may be dimmer than they once were, but those values still exist.

4.     American Heroics

If you do not believe that Americans are still heroic, go speak to the many Americans who exemplify heroism today.  Speak to the teacher who stood in front of her class praying that her class would be safe while the winds of an Oklahoma F5 tornado blew through her school.  Speak to the 19 firemen who gave their lives to save American citizens from the fires that raged in Arizona.  Speak to the police officer who risks his or her life each and every day when they suit up to enforce the laws so that you can be safe.  Speak to the EMS worker who takes risks to help you with medical emergencies.  Speak to the many heroes who stand up for our rights and freedoms each and everyday.  Yes, most Americans are still heroic.  When tragedies strike, these American heroes will stand up to the task.

Conclusion

America does have her problems.  As we celebrate the 237th anniversary of America, our minds can quickly traverse the problems that our nation faces as we journey the 365 days leading towards the 238th anniversary.  But as Americans, we can celebrate the good things that still exist during this time.  As Christians, we can celebrate even more.  We have ultimate freedom in Jesus Christ.  We have true equality as Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NASB).  As Christians, we can have ultimate values as we can know the Value-Giver.  Finally, we can know true heroics by knowing the Ultimate Hero.  I know of no greater hero than that which is found in Jesus Christ.  True strength is found in the ability to love those who hate you.  As we watch the fireworks celebrating our freedoms this Independence Day, let us remember those who keep us free.  As Christians, let our minds also remember the true freedom that we have found in Jesus Christ.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton