While the Declaration of Independence was adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, it was four days later, on July 8, before it was read in public.
On that occasion, what is now known as the “Liberty Bell, rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The “Liberty Bell” had been rung and would be used later for other important occasions. When the American Revolution began it was rung to announce the battle of Lexington and Concord. It tolled annually to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, as well as Independence Day.
It is believed the bell suffered a major fracture when tolling for the funeral of chief justice of the United States, John Marshal, in 1835. When the crack expanded in 1836, marking the anniversary of Washington’s Birthday, it was no longer deemed feasible to be used for such events.
Nonetheless, the “Liberty Bell” stands as a symbol of freedom. And the expression “Let Freedom Ring,” which comes from the patriotic song, “America,” reminds us of the ideals of the Declaration and these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Both the “Liberty Bell” and The Declaration of Independence contain religious references.
Four times in its 1,320-word text, the Declaration references God as our Creator. Nature’s God. The Supreme Judge of the World. And His Divine providence.
Additionally, inscribed on the “Liberty Bell” is a scripture citation of Leviticus 25:10, which in part reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”
While I’m proud to be an American and thankful for the opportunities afforded by citizenship in this country, I’m reminded at this time of year of a greater blessing. A special freedom that is spiritual. A unique liberty found only in the Lord. And a citizenship that is heavenly.
Political freedom is fragile. It can be taken away by the powers that granted it. And it can be abused, misused, and misdirected. Liberty is not license to unreasonably do as we please without restraint. The 18th-century British author and orator, Edmund Burke, was right when warned, “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
Peter Marshall, the Scottish-American preacher and Senate Chaplain, in the 1940s was right when he opined, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”
Sadly, we’re living in a time when many of our cherished freedoms are being eroded away. And subjected to “reasoning” that what was once understood as wrong is now right, and what was once known as right is now wrong.
However, as Christians, we can let freedom ring in our lives, as we live according to the Divine Standard given by our Creator. Regardless of what happens to our great country, we still enjoy freedom in three areas.
(1) We can be free from the bondage of sin.
Jesus proclaims, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32).
The Jews, who originally heard those words, blinded by nationalistic pride, objected, saying, “We’ve never been in bondage to anyone.” They were wrong. They had been in Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian bondage. At that time they were subjugated to Roman rule.
Jesus, however, was offering a different kind of freedom. Spiritual freedom.
He replied, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”
Through the Truth of God’s Word, the Gospel, we can be released from the entanglement of sin that enslaves us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
(2) We can be free from the father of sin.
While the Jews claimed God as their Father, Jesus bluntly affirmed, “You belong to your father, the devil” (Jn. 8:44). Furthermore, Jesus says the devil is a liar. And the father of lies. He lied to Eve in the beginning. He lied to Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness. And he lies to us today. Satan will seek to ensnare, entangle and enslave us. But we can be free.
(3) We can be free from the wages of sin.
Satan promises pleasure in sin. But it results in hurt, heartache, harm. He promises freedom. But its consequences are enslavement. He promises a better life. But sin always ends in death. Spiritually. And eternally. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
As my boyhood mentor, Aude McKee, used to say, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
Regardless of what happens in our country, or what freedoms may be diminished, or what cherished liberties we may lose, we can still be free.
Let freedom ring!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman