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Tavern Talk #67 - So you want to be independent?

As Americans, Independence Day is important. It is how our nation was founded. I was reminded of that this week when I was speaking to a Britain on Wednesday who said, “Oh yes, Happy 4th. That’s interesting isn’t it. Me wishing you a Happy 4th?  I don’t think I've ever had the opportunity to do that.” Well, me either.

 

But as important as it is. As strongly as we feel about it. As emotionally appealing as it may be, it isn’t a church holiday. We can be patriotic Americans and faithful Christians, but one isn’t dependent on the other. They are INDEPENDENT. That is something our nation’s founders felt very strongly about.

 

woman walking alone down the middle of railroad tracks

People sometimes confuse the terms of the Declaration of Independence (which is what we are celebrating) and the Constitution with the lines of the Pledge of Allegiance. “One nation, under God, indivisible…”. Francis Bellamy penned basically what is included in the pledge that we say today in the late 19th Century. It wasn’t adopted by Congress until 1942. “Under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.

 

The lines have become blurred. I’m not going to do a deep dive here; I have done that before and you can watch those previous talks if you’re interested. (Tavern Talks 26 & 27)

 

Don’t get me wrong. It is great to be patriotic. It’s great to celebrate our country and its accomplishments. It’s great to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But one doesn’t have to be a Christian to be an American. That’s a civics lesson. Not a Tavern Talk. And one doesn’t have to be what you may judge as a great American to be a Christian. Politics and Christianity don’t mix. And shouldn’t mix. When they become blurred, it can become hard to practice Christianity.

 

As Christians, we know something about independence. We’ve known it for over 1,000 years before our nation was even conceived. As people who acknowledge, worship, and love God, we’ve known it for much longer. The predominant recurring theme throughout the entire Bible is that of independence. Think about it.

 

Old Testament

 

The theme of independence is present throughout the Old Testament in various narratives and passages. Here are some notable examples:

 

1.        The Garden of Eden.

Man wanted to be free from God’s rules. That quest for independence lead to the fall of mankind.

 

2.        The Call of Abraham

Genesis 12:1-4: God calls Abraham to leave his country, his people, and his father's household and go to the land God will show him. This marks a significant step of independence as Abraham separates from his family and homeland to follow God's promise.

 

3.        The Exodus from Egypt

Exodus 12-14: The story of the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt is a profound example of independence. Led by Moses, the Israelites leave Egypt to become an independent people under God’s guidance.

 

4.        The Wilderness Wanderings

Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy: During the 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites learn to rely on God rather than on the structures and systems of Egypt. This period is marked by a growing sense of identity and independence.

 

5.        The Conquest of Canaan

Joshua: Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites conquer Canaan and begin to settle in the Promised Land. This period involves the establishment of Israel as an independent nation in their own territory.

 

6.        The Judges Period

Judges: After settling in Canaan, Israel goes through cycles of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. Various judges (such as Deborah, Gideon, and Samson) rise to deliver Israel from oppression, emphasizing the theme of independence and self-governance.

 

7.        The Establishment of the Monarchy

1 Samuel 8-10: The Israelites request a king to lead them, and Samuel anoints Saul as the first king. This marks a transition from tribal confederacy to a centralized monarchy, aiming for political independence and stability.

 

8.        David and Goliath

1 Samuel 17: David's defeat of Goliath symbolizes the struggle for independence and the triumph of the underdog. David’s victory is a turning point for Israel in asserting its strength and autonomy.

 

9.        The Reign of David and Solomon

2 Samuel and 1 Kings: Under King David and later King Solomon, Israel experiences a period of political and economic independence, expanding its territory and influence.

 

10.  The Division of the Kingdom

1 Kings 12: After Solomon's reign, the kingdom splits into Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom). Each kingdom asserts its independence from the other, leading to distinct political entities.

 

11.  The Prophets’ Call for Spiritual Independence

Various Books of Prophets: Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel call Israel and Judah to return to spiritual independence by rejecting foreign idols and relying solely on Yahweh.

 

12.  The Return from Exile

Ezra and Nehemiah: After the Babylonian exile, the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple and the city walls symbolize a renewed independence and restoration of the Jewish community.

 

New Testament Gospels

 

In the New Testament, Jesus addressed the concept of independence in various ways, though not always explicitly using the term. His teachings often emphasized spiritual independence, freedom from sin, and reliance on God rather than on human authorities or material possessions. Here are some key passages and teachings of Jesus related to the theme of independence:

 

1.        Freedom from Sin

John 8:31-36: Jesus speaks about the truth setting people free. He says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." He further explains, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." This highlights spiritual independence through liberation from sin.

 

2.         Reliance on God

Matthew 6:25-34: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about not worrying about material needs. He encourages reliance on God for provision, saying, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." This teaching promotes independence from material concerns and dependence on God.

 

3.         Independence from Worldly Authorities

Matthew 22:15-22: When questioned about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus replies, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s." This teaching suggests a distinction between worldly and spiritual obligations, implying a form of spiritual independence from secular authorities.

 

4.         Living by the Spirit

John 3:5-8: Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being born of the Spirit, indicating that true life and freedom come through the Spirit of God. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." This points to a life led by the Spirit, independent of human limitations and directions.

 

5.         The Greatest Commandment

Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus summarizes the law with the greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." These commandments suggest an independence from extensive religious laws and a focus on love as the guiding principle.

 

6.         Teaching on True Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33: Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship, saying, "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." He emphasizes a commitment to him above all else, including family and personal possessions, which implies independence from worldly attachments.

 

7.         Spiritual Liberty

Luke 4:18-19: Quoting Isaiah, Jesus declares his mission: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." This mission statement underscores liberation from various forms of oppression.

 

8.         Parable of the Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32: This parable illustrates the journey of a young man seeking independence from his father, only to realize the value of returning home. It speaks to the tension between seeking independence and recognizing the need for reconciliation and dependence on a loving relationship.

 

While Jesus does not explicitly focus on the concept of independence in the same way modern contexts might understand it, his teachings consistently emphasize spiritual freedom, reliance on God, and independence from sin, worldly concerns, and human authorities.

 

Other New Testament Examples

 

The theme of independence can be found in various forms throughout the New Testament outside of the four major Gospels. Here are some examples:

 

1.         Paul’s Teachings on Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1: Paul writes, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." This passage emphasizes the spiritual independence believers have from the Law and from sin through Christ.

Romans 8:1-2: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Paul highlights the freedom and independence from sin's consequences through Jesus.

 

2.         Independence from the Law

Galatians 3:23-25: "Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian." This passage stresses independence from the Old Testament Law through faith in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17: "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." Paul encourages believers to live independently of traditional religious observances, focusing on their relationship with Christ.

 

3.         The Early Church’s Autonomy

Acts 4:18-20: Peter and John demonstrate independence from the religious authorities by continuing to preach Jesus despite being ordered not to: "Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, 'Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'"

Acts 5:29: Peter and the other apostles proclaim, "We must obey God rather than human beings!" This declaration shows the early Christians’ determination to follow God independently of human authority.

 

4.         Freedom from Cultural Norms

1 Corinthians 7:22: "For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave." Paul speaks about independence from social and cultural norms by emphasizing spiritual status over earthly conditions.

Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This verse emphasizes the spiritual equality and independence from cultural divisions in Christ.

 

5.         Individual Responsibility and Freedom

Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Paul encourages believers to take personal responsibility for their spiritual growth.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." This passage encourages a form of practical independence and self-sufficiency.

 

6.         Spiritual Independence and Conscience

Romans 14:5: "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind." Paul emphasizes the importance of individual conscience in matters of faith and practice.

1 Corinthians 8:9: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." This highlights the balance between exercising personal freedom and being considerate of others.

 

These examples illustrate how the theme of independence is woven throughout the New Testament, emphasizing spiritual freedom, personal responsibility, and autonomy from worldly and cultural constraints.

 

God allows us to be independent of

  • Sin

  • Bad habits

  • Harmful relationships

  • Bitterness

  • Insatiable materialism

  • The never-ending treadmill of betterment that our culture tells us

  • Imperfection

  • Dissatisfaction

  • Hurt

  • Pain

  • A prescribed relationship with God

 

The Tavern started and grew out of a desire for independence. Not for us. For you.

 

To enjoy this independence that God provides we must depend on Jesus. It’s the only way.

 

I hope this Bible tour and these thoughts on a Christian perspective on independence will allow you to reflect on this season a little differently.

 

May you feel confident in your independence realizing it doesn’t mean you are alone.

 

God be with you.

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