Celebrate Freedom in Christ

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from Follow Me: Learning About Faith, Obedience, and Being Made Holy (Threads by LifeWay) by Jason Hayes.

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love the pageantry that comes along with it: the fireworks, the parades, the cookouts, and the time at the lake. It can't be beat. And it's appropriate. As an American, this is the day when I, along with millions of others, celebrate my national freedom. This day is my chance to express externally the internal pride I have in my country. Of course, I'm not limited to celebrating freedom only on this day, but there's no doubt that the Fourth of July marks my fullest expression of patriotism. And why do I celebrate this specific day? Because this is the day when everything changed for me as an American.

With the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our country was officially and permanently declared independent from the Kingdom of Great Britain. The political and cultural landscape of both nations changed forever. Our forefathers set events in motion that not only impacted them, but also impacted generations to come, including ours. And our children's. And their children's. You get the picture. July 4, 1776, was a day when everything changed.

While national freedom, whether to America or any other country, is extraordinary and worth celebrating, I don't say all of this to point us toward patriotism. Christianity in its truest form is a celebration of freedom. As Christ-followers, we enjoy spiritual freedom through the redeeming work of Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, took the weight of the world's sin on the cross, conquered it and the grave through His resurrection, and provided redemption and atonement for those who would accept Him as Savior and Lord. In exchange for this freedom, we owe God our allegiance - an allegiance that reminds us neither this country, nor anywhere else on earth, is our home.

The gospel calls us to be set apart from this world while simultaneously taking on the role of ambassadors for God's kingdom. This allegiance is birthed out of change: the life-altering impact of meeting Jesus Christ. The moment we say OK to Jesus' "follow Me" call is the moment everything (and I mean everything) changes.

The greatest celebration of freedom is a commitment to that which makes me free. As an American, I don't best celebrate my freedom by lighting sparklers and eating ridiculous amounts of hotdogs. (Trust me. I've tried.) Instead, my actions throughout the year serve as the best testimony to my allegiance. When I pay my taxes, vote, follow the law, and respect the authorities chosen by the citizens of our democratic society, I'm proving my commitment to my country. This commitment celebrates freedom. Likewise, committing to Christ celebrates my spiritual freedom.

Jason Hayes is the pastor of Shoreline Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and author of Blemished and Follow Me. He is also co-author of Lost and Found.

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