... The word is almost sacred to the American people, and over the world
today it stirs great hope and aspirations. Our Declaration of Independence
calls it an "inalienable" right and a truth "self-evident." What is the
source of this freedom, and what does it mean to us?
the right to choose, is a gift from God. He elevated man above the beasts of
the field: making man in his image
sharing with man the power of choice. Man need not be slave to instinct or
norm. He may rise above self, pursue ideals, seek truth, and embrace it.
But with power
there is responsibility. The ability to choose the right exposes us to the
danger of choosing the wrong. The same justice that rewards the righteous,
must also condemn the wicked. Freedom, then, cannot be free. Even in the
moral realm it imposes obligations, and there are none more bound than those
who foolishly demand unbridled liberty and become slaves of their own folly.
government a man can vote as he chooses, but he may not vote correctly. He
may, by neglect or party politics, fail the responsibilities of this truth
and encourage corruption.
free enterprise allows a man to invest as he sees fit. But this is no
guarantee of profit. He may invest unwisely, and "loose his shirt," the
price paid for untrammeled opportunity.
A study of
freedom in every facet of life will emphasize the obligations of those who
enjoy it. Conversely, man's history shows that freedom is lost when its
obligations are ignored.
religion is widely acclaimed, but it is as widely misunderstood. The
constitution guarantees religious freedom, but cannot make whatever one
chooses to believe acceptable with God. At best, man can only endorse the
freedom God originally granted a right inherent in the nature of man.
Legislative, judicial, and executive authority in divine matters must be
left to God.
The need to
serve God according to his law is not diminished by free will. That need is,
in fact, intensified. We are the more accountable before God for the way we
exercise our free agency.
In the very
early times the "priesthood" of all believers
(1 Pet. 2:5, 9)
was dominated by a rising clergy system. Each one's obligation to "prove all
(1 Thess. 5:21)
gave way to party loyalties and the word of the clergy. Soon the scriptural
was replaced by
the usurped "authority of the church," and history repeated itself. When the
obligations of true liberty are slighted, liberty itself is lost.
liberty was not wrested from the church. It was lost by default. "Churchanity"
dulls individual will and stifles initiative. In religion, as in business
and government, the socialized slave is tranquilized by his lot and loses
his taste for the rigorous life of true freedom.
how much of your own religion have you proven by God's word? Perhaps you
were baptized (?) by sprinkling, but have you ever read New Testament
authority for that? You may be a member of some denomination, but does the
word of God authorize its name, doctrine, and practice? Do you accept a
thing as right or wrong simply because the preacher so declares it? Do such
questions irritate you? We hope not! They are asked to help you see how
easily one may forfeit individual freedoms in favor of unproven traditions.
Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation, but freedom can be lost
religion is a choice of masters: God or self. Liberty under God is not the
same as becoming your own God. Recognition of the Supreme Being should make
us aware that man can no longer direct his own steps
Jesus warned, "No man can serve two masters"
Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . .", then he added
that a decision for God imposed obligations
(Josh. 24:15, 19-23).
Most pitiful of
all are the willfully blind. Thinking they serve God, these allow the winds
of the day to make their decisions. They stumble in the darkness of
self-service, yet know not they are blind
Freedom is not for the fearful, the crowd pleaser, or the lover of ease in
Zion. It must be grasped with resoluteness, and retained with sacrifice eyes
God involves individual responsibility toward God: to know his will
and be freed from sin
Truth severs the shackles of sectarianism and gives assurance that we walk
in his light. But we are warned that if we fail to properly exercise our
freedom in religion, as in government and business we shall be bound by sin
and finally perish.
Guardian of Truth—January 18, 1996
Other Articles by Robert F. Turner
Tolerance and Intolerance
If I Had But One Sermon
Prayer and Fasting
Church is no Sham
Those "Other" Sinners
A Bit of Methodist History on
A Man Called
Careful to Answer
Men Act When They Repent
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