Here in the United States, during the first week of July, we observe a national holiday known as Independence Day, and commonly referred to as "The Fourth of July.". It is a day that has been set aside to commemorate the beginning of our nation and the source of our freedom. In America, we have several national holidays that celebrate the freedom we, as Americans, enjoy. Among those are Memorial Day, which is observed at the end of May to recognizing the men and women who have been killed in armed conflicts on behalf of the nation and Veterans Day, which is observed on the anniversary of the armistice ending the worst war in human history — up to that point — World War I. It is fashionable in the U. S. to exalt the men and women of the Armed Forces as heroes who defend our freedom and who sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom. As someone who has previously served in the Armed Forces, many times I have had people say "thank you for your service" to me.
The current culture of the adulation of the military hasn't always been the case. If you're old enough to remember the time during the days of the military draft and the War in Vietnam and even into the late 1980's it wasn't "cool" to serve in the military or to express any appreciation for military service. The first Gulf War changed the nations' attitude in the relatively short war in 1991. Finally, the nation had a military victory in a campaign against a foreign enemy. The troops came home, parades were held and speeches made, and the military was once again "cool" to the populace and they were exalted for protecting our freedom. Now we have “Heroes” who have given us our freedom in The Land of the Free — because of the Brave. But, is that really what happens? Ask yourself this question: After the 2,852,901 men and women who were killed or maimed since the first shots were fired in the War for Independence from Britain, are you more free or less free than you were even 30 years ago? What does it mean to be free and what or who is the source of your freedom? Let’s take a look at how we got to where we are today. During the time when the people, our ancestors, who began to settle this land, which later became the United States and was organized into colonies, had written documents and agreed upon as to how we were to be governed. Among the first were the Fundamental Agreement of the Colony of New Haven signed on June 4, 1639 (Note: Common titles such as "G-d" etc, and names are used for historical accuracy.) The agreement spells out 6 fundamental areas of agreement that all of the colonists individually subscribed to. The first reads: WHETHER the scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to GOD and men, as well in families and commonwealth, as in matters of the church? This was assented unto by all, no man dissenting, as was expressed by holding up of hands. Afterwards it was read over to them, that they might see in what words their vote was expressed. They again expressed their consent by holding up their hands, no man dissenting. Then, some 137 years later, an example is found in the 1776 Constitution of Delaware is less emphatic. Article 22: Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall take the following oath, or affirmation, if conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath, to wit: “I, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.” Later, one of our founding documents in the United States is our Declaration of Independence. This document identifies the source of our rights as it reads, “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” progressing even further towards secularism. Eleven years later when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the founders took another step and declared that "We - the People" are the source of authority; not the scriptures, not Father Yahweh or even a generic Creator. No. We are the ones who ordain and establish the laws by which we govern ourselves. Sound familiar? Isaiah 14:13 - 14 For you have said in your heart, “Let me go up to the heavens, let me raise my throne above the stars of Ěl, and let me sit in the mount of appointment on the sides of the north; let me go up above the heights of the clouds, let me be like the Most High.” Now laws are made, and rights conferred by nine men in black robes. These men can make or restrict our freedom based upon their own ideas and values. Case in point – 2008 Proposition 8 in California. This was a ballot initiative passed in 2008 to amend the California state constitution to provide that “only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in the State of California.” The will of the people was ultimately reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. So what we can see here is a progression of the source of authority for governance. First, the Scriptures were the authority, then men who agreed that the Scriptures were inspired, then a general agreement that the source of our rights were endowed by a “Creator,” then the authority became “We the People” or the consent of the governed, and now the authority is a very few in the judiciary (ultimately the Supreme Court). To put it in today’s laguage – How’s that working out for you? Is that true freedom and is that what the Scriptures teach us? What is the desire of our Creator, Almighty Father Yahweh, for us? What does it mean to be free? Does it mean we are able to do anything we want to without consequence? Does freedom mean that we are free to make our own laws? Are we free to blaspheme and worship idols? The first amendment gives us the right to do that. Are we free to engage in intimate relationships with anyone we choose? The Supreme Court has upheld laws to that effect. Really, if you think about it, we’re “free” to engage in all kinds of behavior: adultery, idolatry, hatred, fits of rage, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness. There is a long list of behaviors that we as American citizens are free to do without punishment by the government. Is this what these heroes fought and died for? Any of us who are parents know that allowing a child to make up their own rules is not a good thing for a child and inevitably will bring about a lot of pain and ultimately destruction. Let’s look at what the One Who actually does have the power to set you free ‒ Yahshua the Messiah. Yes, what did He say about freedom? When Yahshua was speaking with the religious elite of His day, the discourse between them was recorded by the Apostle John and the subject was freedom, John 8:31-36 So Yahshua said to those Yehudim who believed Him, “If you stay in My Word, you are truly My taught ones, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are the seed of Abraham, and have been servants to no one at any time. How do you say, ‘You shall become free’?” Yahshua answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone doing sin is a servant of sin. And the servant does not stay in the house forever – a son stays forever. If, then, the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” These Pharisees completely misunderstood what Yahshua was talking about. They were relating on a completely physical level stating that they were not subject to a human government or institution (which is kind of an odd thing to say while being under Roman rule). Yahshua, on the other hand, was relating on a spiritual level ‒ something these scribes and Pharisees didn't understand at all. Similarly, do we have the same misunderstanding about freedom? Are we looking at this concept of freedom on a physical level rather than a spiritual level as the Pharisees did? The apostle Kepha (Peter) reiterated Yahshua’s teaching when he wrote in his 1st letter: 1 Peter 2:13 - 16, Be subject to every institution of man because of the Master, whether to the sovereign as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of doers of evil, and a praise for those who do good. Because such is the desire of Elohim, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, as free, yet not using your freedom as a cloak for evil, but as servants of Elohim. Our teacher Sha’ul (Paul) gives a second witness in his letter to the Galatians: Galatians 5:13 - 15, For you, brothers, have been called to freedom, only do not use freedom as an occasion for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the entire Torah is completed in one word, in this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”(Lev. 19:18). And if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Almighty Father Yahweh has from the very beginning given us the freedom to choose. But as Yahshua pointed out to these Pharisees, how you choose will decide whether you are a slave (to sin) or free (from the death penalty). The Pharisees should have known this being students of the Torah ‒ the freedom to choose is summarized in Deuteronomy: 30:15- 20, See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love YAHWEH your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His com- mands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and YAHWEH your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess. “But if your heart turns away, and you do not obey, and shall be drawn away, and shall bow down to other mighty ones and serve them, I have declared to you today that you shall certainly perish, you shall not prolong your days in the land which you are passing over the Yarděn to enter and possess. I have called the heavens and the earth as witnesses today against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore you shall choose life, so that you live, both you and your seed, to love YAHWEH your Elohim, to obey His voice, and to cling to Him–for He is your life and the length of your days – to dwell in the land which YAHWEH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Yitsaq, and to Ya‛aqov, to give them. What do we think about freedom? Have the world’s ideas - (western culture) infiltrated our thinking? How about those in the U.S.? We have constitutional rights, don't we? We have freedom of speech, right? Can we say anything we want? The apostle Ya’akov (James) gives us this admonition: James 1:26, If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is worthless. James 3:5 - 8, So too the tongue is a little member, yet boasts greatly. See how a little fire kindles a great forest! And the tongue is a fire, the world of unrighteousness. Among our members the tongue is set, the one defiling the entire body, and setting on fire the wheel of life, and it is set on fire by GěHinnom. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man is able to tame the tongue. It is unruly, evil, filled with deadly poison. Does Freedom mean freedom from the Law (Torah)? There are those who teach that we are now free from keeping the Old Testament Law. Romans 8:1 - 2, There is, then, now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yahshua, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the torah of the Spirit of the life in Messiah Yahshua has set me free from the torah of sin and of death. So there it is ‒ we’re free from the law; right? Is that what Sha’ul (Paul) is saying? No. The penalty of sin, which is death, is what we are free from. Sha’ul puts to rest any thought that we are free from the Torah. He says quite the opposite. We are actually free because of the Torah. Roman 6:15 - 20, What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Torah but under favour? Let it not be! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves servants for obedience, you are servants of the one whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But thanks to Elohim that you were servants of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of teaching to which you were entrusted. And having been set free from sin, you became servants of righteousness. I speak as a man, because of the weakness of your flesh. For even as you did present your members as servants of uncleanness, and of lawlessness resulting in lawlessness, so now present your members as servants of righteousness resulting in set-apartness. For when you were servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. Romans 6:21 - 23, What fruit, therefore, were you having then, over which you are now ashamed? For the end thereof is death. But now, having been set free from sin, and having become servants of Elohim, you have your fruit resulting in set-apartness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the favourable gift of Elohim is everlasting life in Messiah Yahshua our Master. Footnote: See Rom. 8:13. 2 Corinthians 3:17, Now YAHWEH is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of YAHWEH is, there is freedom. The apostle Ya’akov provides even more clarity: James 1:23 - 25, Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, this one is like a man studying his natural face in a mirror; for he studied himself, and has gone away, and immediately he forgot how he looked. But the one looking into the perfect Law of liberty, and continuing in it, this one not having become a hearer of the word which can be forgotten, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in his labor. When we fall for the world’s definition of freedom, we become as Kepha (Peter) describes in 2 Peter 2:18 - 20: For speaking arrogant nonsense, they entice – through the lusts of the flesh, through indecencies – the ones who have indeed escaped from those living in delusion, promising them freedom, though themselves being slaves of corruption – for one is a slave to whatever overcomes him. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Master and Saviour Yahshua Messiah, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the first. We can see that both the secular world and mainstream Christianity’s idea of freedom – that we can sin with impunity and be free of the consequences is not supported by scripture. The fact is, true freedom is found in obedience to the Torah – the instructions Almighty Yahweh has given us. Our Father loves us and wants us to live with Him throughout all eternity and to avoid the natural penalty that disobedience brings with it – ultimately eternal death. We do live in a land that has been abundantly blessed by Almighty Yahweh and we should never fail to thank Him for the relative peace and safety and wealth that we enjoy here. However, let us also remember that just as Abraham was, we also are strangers and sojourners in this land (Heb. 11:13) and that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
~ by Elder John Illgen
(NOTE: To view this teaching as a video, please click here --> Message begins at 23:50 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jFFsRFuysI&t=1429s )
c Green Bay Sabbath Fellowship/2019