Exactly 240 years ago next Monday, on July 4, 1776, the American colonies declared themselves free and independent states, but were they free and independent? No. Not until five years later at the last battle of the revolution in Yorktown, Pennsylvania, did they achieve that independence, which was made official two years later in the Treaty of Paris.
Which amounts to this: The colonies declared themselves free, then they had to fight for what they declared. I had to look this up to find it out. Prior to that, I would have said that July 4 marked their victory over Britain. When you think about it, it makes sense that they would declare themselves free before they actually earned that freedom. They needed an identity to fight for. Prior to that, they were fighting against something; on July 4, 1776, they began fighting for something — an idea, a bold new initiative, a country that did not exist before came into being.
This is a little bit like our freedom in Christ. We’ve been declared free; the declaration was signed in the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily experiencing that freedom. We need to fight for what’s been declared. No, we don’t earn it — that’s already been done — but we lay hold of it; we step into it; we act on what has a been declared. And that may include a fight — a fight against ourselves — against the forces that would keep us from living in what’s already been declared ours.
Throughout the scriptures there are declarations and promises about our new life in Christ. There’s the freedom in the Spirit, the power over sin, the fruits of the Spirit, the indwelling life of Christ, the divine nature of which we have become partakers — that’s just what comes off the top of my head right now; there are so many more — all these things are ours; they’ve been declared ours by the word of God, but they mean nothing if we do not take hold of them by faith. These are all true and have been made true by Christ through His victory on the cross over sin and death. But we don’t experience these things until we lay hold of them by faith. That’s the fight of faith.
When you fly your flag this weekend — and I hope you do — think of those early founding fathers drafting the infrastructure of a new nation, and think of those scrappy soldiers, huddled against the cold and snow in Valley Forge with a dream of freedom, and think of their leader, kneeling in prayer against the better trained, better equipped forces of the British Empire, and let those images be a source of inspiration to you to claim what you need from the Lord that has been provided and declared yours by the word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Seize the day. Make real what’s been declared. It’s all been done; the victory is already won; step into it; fight to embrace what’s already yours by faith.
Happy Fourth of July.