Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Personal Declaration of Independence

In the U.S., July 4th is Independence Day. And where I live, near the Ocean, it's beach day! It's the busiest beach day of the year. Thousands and thousands of people flock to the ocean. I wonder how many realize what Independence Day is about, other than a holiday beach day? I'm sure some late night TV host, like Jay Leno, will be interviewing people on the street, to ask what Independence Day stands for. 

Independence Day is a federal holiday that celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence is that famous document, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and signed by the members of the Continental Congress. It announced that the 13 colonies, then at war with Great Britain, declared themselves to be no longer under the rule of the British Empire. And for our country, as well as for any country that seeks to be an independent nation, that is something surely worth remembering and celebrating. 

It makes me consider...what is our personal independence day, spiritually speaking? When did we declare freedom? Freedom from what? Well, we know this: Christ died to set us free from sins. So, if Christ set us free from sins, we are no longer slaves to sin. In other words, Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin - free from the chains and shackles of sin ruling our lives.

"For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."  (Hebrews 9:15)

There's a point when we decide to get rid of our old self, our old ways, our sinful ways. In a sense, we die to our old self - we die to sin. Through Jesus we become new. That's what Christianity is all about - new life in Christ. 

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)

Spiritually, we go through a death, burial, and resurrection. We bury our old self - crucify our old self. Our spiritual death, burial and resurrection parallels Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. This happens at our baptism. 

"Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."  (Romans 6:3-4)

At our baptism, we rise to walk a new life. At our baptism, we are joined with Christ, and are united with Him. And if we go through a spiritual death, burial and resurrection with Jesus, ours sins are washed away, and we are forgiven and set free from the bondage of sin ruling our lives.

"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:5-7)

If you were baptized into Christ, you have clothed yourself with Christ. His Spirit is in you, and you walk with Him the rest of your life. 

"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:27)

Those of us who were baptized, have decided to live a new life - to change, to transform ourselves and live in a right relationship with God.

"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

Yes, those of us who are citizens of the United States of America should celebrate the 4th of July, and pledge our allegiance to our country. But even in the bigger picture, those of us who are Christians should celebrate our spiritual declaration of independence -  the day we were baptized! And just as we pledge our allegiance to our country, in a broader sense, as Christians, we pledge our allegiance to the one who set us free, Jesus.

"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18)

That's right, those of us who are in Christ, are set free, not only from the bondage of sin, but we are set free from the grip of death itself! 

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:22-23)

So let's celebrate our country's Independence Day. And let this holiday remind those of us who are baptized into Christ, to recall our spiritual Independence Day. The day we were set free. For me, it was December 21, 1986 - my personal declaration of independence :)

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