"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty "
These familiar words from the Apostle Paul come from his teaching to the Corinthians that Christ has taken away the vail and given us real freedom and liberty, both individually and as a people (2 Cor. 3:16-17). In doing this He became the Redeemer of the whole world, of all mankind, of each individual soul living on the face of the earth. No other religion or belief, outside Christianity, teaches a doctrine like this. No other religion teaches of a personal, individual Savior whose atonement brought about the possibility of forgiveness, freedom, and liberty for each and every individual. Liberty and freedom from what? --from the bondage and guilt of individual sin and transgression; from the wages of sin which is death; from the grasp of that awful monster who would bind us down in everlasting chains. Freedom from these oppressions is the highest form of liberty. In the words of the song, "America", written by Samuel Adams in 1832, the fourth verse begins, "Our father's God, to Thee, Author of Liberty..., is an expression of our true heritage and where all liberty originates.
Early Colonizers of America Sought Liberty for the Soul
Author Chris Esseltine describes the hunger of the soul that began to develop in people during the reformation in Europe:
"As a result of the spirit of life resulting from the Western Awakening, combined with the power of the Word, people began to see mankind differently than they had before. During the Dark Ages and the Medieval period, man was thought of as something corrupt, sinful, dangerous, and worth very little. The common belief was that only a few select persons (the ones with the power) were good enough to lead others and eventually be saved in Heaven. But as people began reading the Bible, reading some Classical literature, and as they were enlightened with new awakening life, the view of human beings started to change dramatically.
"For the first time in centuries, man was seen as a real individual, instead of just one more part of the state or the church. The individual became important and so did his or her needs, wants, and happiness. The individual human finally had dignity, value, respect. Much of this new insight came from the Bible, where the value of mankind is taught repeatedly. For example, in Luke 9:56 Jesus taught that He '...is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' He also taught later that '...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' (Luke 15:10) Isaiah explains the reason for this. He proclaimed that man was '...more precious than fine gold.' (Isaiah 13:12)
"Paul taught that the Lord '...will have ALL MEN to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:4, capitals and italics added) This great Apostle also taught that 'The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God : And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.' (Romans 8:16-17) So, the biblical idea that all men and women can be saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and that each member of the human family is literally a son or daughter of God with divine inheritance and potential, caused people to abandon the old ideas that mankind was worthless for the correct view that mankind was instead good, productive, and capable of great achievement.
"With the development of the belief that each individual was valuable, good, and independent came the idea that no person should be forced to think, believe, or act according to the will of an unjust ruler. Every individual had the right to seek and discover according to his own conscience without fear of interference or punishment from earthly authority. This did not mean that a person has the right to do anything they wanted; law was given to keep people from harming others. But within the bounds of God's Law, a person must be free to choose.
"The development of this belief gave birth to the Separatist spirit. This is the spirit of individualism, of the right to personal choice, of liberty of conscience. It is called the 'Separatist' spirit because it moved reformers to 'separate' themselves from several things - old ideas and traditions, corrupt churches, abusive governments, and anything that was not true to Christ, His Gospel, and His liberty."
Christianity Will Stand On Its Own Merits
The Separatist Founders knew that pure Christianity, as it was taught by Jesus, would thrive on its own merits. It does not need the force of government to sustain it. It is not afraid of competition from other religions or philosophies for converts to its teachings. Once the Spirit bears testimony to the sincere, truth-seeking soul of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ, all other things take second place. The Word has revolutionary power. It will change hearts. It will change people. It will change governments. It will change the world.
One of the amazing things about pure Christianity is that it requires no force to bring about change. It is so silent, so gentle, so calming and yet so persuasive that without the use of force it proves to be the most powerful means to change the hearts of men. It is revolutionary in nature, not because it uses force of arms, but because converted souls will embrace it at the cost of their own lives.
But pure Christianity does need one thing to survive-Freedom of Conscience. Men must be allowed to embrace it if they so choose. Hence the need for a government to guarantee freedom of religion. Government must be kept from either establishing religious beliefs and doctrine or preventing religious doctrines from being believed and lived.
American Constitution Written to Protect Man's Right
to Believe According to His Conscience
With the firm conviction, then, that Christianity will abound in a society where tolerance for all beliefs will be maintained, the Founders set about creating "the greatest piece of work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." (William E. Gladstone). It is known as the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution so divides, limits, and balances the power of government that the sacred right to worship as one chooses cannot be interfered with. Just to make sure, the Founders added the First Amendment which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The United States of America has become known as the most tolerant nation in the world. It is tolerant to all kinds of religious beliefs. A person may form his own church. He may proselyte for members. He may ask for financial support from its members. He may build church buildings and, in the name of the church receive exemptions from taxation. A Hindu or Buddhist may practice his religion in America. A Jew may practice his religion in America. A Muslim may practice his religion in America. A person is even protected in having no belief at all. As long as religion is not used as a cover for the violation of the rights of others, any religious belief is allowed to be practiced in America. And in America each believer may proselyte for his own faith.
It is interesting to note that all of this freedom to believe and to act grows out of pure Christianity which is the foundation of America. No other belief system in the world will even allow this degree of tolerance for others.
America 's Most Sublime Message Is The Message of Christmas
If we really understood the impact the message of Christ's birth could have on the world, Americans would do much more to help the rest of the world enjoy Christ's most bounteous blessings.
Dr. Skousen reminds us of how it all began 2000 years ago:
"Only about a mile distant, hovering over the outskirts of Bethlehem, were certain angels preparing to make their presence known. Below them were a group of humble shepherds, abiding in the fields and watching their flocks by night. These had been chosen to see a marvelous vision that they would be talking about the rest of their lives.
"It all commenced the moment Mary's precious infant was born. Immediately, the shepherds saw the veil of mortality sheared back, and an angel stood before them with a glory that bathed the surrounding terrain in a radiant light.
"The shepherds thought they would be consumed and shrank back in fright, but the angel said:
'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
'For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
'And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'
At that moment the hosts of heaven could no longer be restrained. The majestic choir of thousands of heavenly voices burst into song. It appears that these vast angelic choirs must have repeated one line of the song several times because the shepherds never forgot it. They remembered how the angels sang:
'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'
"When the vision closed, the shepherds left immediately to go into Bethlehem and seek out the location of the child "lying in a manger." Perhaps the flickering flame of an olive oil lamp sent its rays into the night to guide them to the stable's portals.
"As the shepherds stood watching Joseph, Mary, and the baby, they saw that the little one was indeed wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. There is no record of any conversation. Perhaps they just looked.
"What they saw was a humble Galilean peasant and his wife with a newborn child. There were no halos of light about their heads, no visible cherubim. Nevertheless, with the glory of the angels still fresh in their minds, the shepherds looked upon the sleeping child with devotion and awe. Jesus Christ had entered mortality!"
Have a meaningful, memorable Christmas season.
Earl Taylor, Jr.