July 4th: Stand Fast!

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.-Galatians 5: 1 (NKJV)

freedom3In his commentary on this verse [endnote 1], Luther points out that to stand fast requires vigilance against the lies of the devil that by keeping the Law we can set ourselves free, for then Christ died to no purpose. In the Greek, the definite article precedes “liberty” and the divines of King James got it right in 1611: “The liberty”.  Liberty in Christ is as definite as His Cross.   The sign of the Cross is the sign of the eternal liberty. When we are lazy about our liberty in Christ Jesus, then we open ourselves to assaults of the evil one.  Luther wrote  that it as if the Apostle were saying:

“Vigilance and steadiness are necessary if you are to keep the freedom for which Christ has set us free.  Those who are smug and sleep are not able to keep it.”

We have fallen asleep as a nation and as His Church. When we get lazy about our liberty we think it is the freedom of the flesh to do as I please, then the “I” has once again dethroned Jesus Christ and we are again in the yoke of bondage.  He has set you free in the forgiveness He has won for you, and He did so not with silver or gold, bonds or stocks, but His precious, holy and innocent sufferings and blood.

Luther is also clear that there are two types of liberty: political and spiritual and that  spiritual freedom is assuredly the greater.  Luther wrote that the “Roman emperor” granted political freedom.  The founding fathers of the United States said political freedom is not granted by the state but by God. I think they were on to something. God grants the lesser political freedom based upon the greater freedom and liberty in Christ Jesus in which we are set free from, “…the wrath of God, from the Law, sin, death etc.” (Luther).  Luther wrote that these words are easy to say but hard to keep and Luther also taught us to sing, He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.

When we live as if political freedom is the license of the flesh, then we are again in bondage.  The new political enslavement was well described in a sermon by Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1938 in Germany [endnote 2]:

The conscience of the world was destroyed by those who were wont to blame others rather than themselves. Let us remember. We revered the instincts but distrusted the prophets. We labored to perfect engines and let our inner life go to wreck. We ridiculed superstition until we lost our ability to believe. We have helped to extinguish the light our fathers had kindled. We have bartered holiness for convenience, loyalty for success, love for power, wisdom for information, tradition for fashion. (emphasis my own)

The last sentence describes all together too closely the life of our nation and of our churches. Convenience, success, power, information and fashion is the program and the  false of promises of many a politician and too many pastors in the courts of public opinion and of the Lord’s House. Tyrants and tyranny over body and soul then step in to give us what we lust for and want more of and then we succumb to bondage.  Like Israel, we would rather be slaves in Egypt eating our fill of cucumbers and melons, than on the freedom road of Christ Jesus.

Simply put:  we have not stood fast.  We can, beloved in the Lord, as He stands fast and has for us and for our salvation.  There is the yoke of Christ or the yoke of the Law.  There is the yoke of bondage to the devil or the yoke of liberty in Christ.  Political freedom is enshrined in words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These documents do not grant freedom but point to it. Spiritual freedom is founded in the Word of God, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible forever points us to Him in the liberty wherewith He set us free.  Fellow of citizens of the kingdoms:  Stand Fast!


Endnotes —

[1] LW, volume 27, pages 3-9

[2] “The Meaning of This Hour”, Abraham Joshua Heschel

About Pastor Mark Schroeder

I am currently the Pastor at Concordia Lutheran Mission, authorized by Good Shepherd Lutheran, Roanoke, Virginia. I have been an AELC then an ELCA pastor since my Ordination April 24, 1983 until leaving the ELCA and being accepted by Colloquy, June 1, 2010. My wife is Natalie and we have three children, Luke, Talitha and Abraham.


July 4th: Stand Fast! — 5 Comments

  1. Living as we are in the moribund late phase of what Harold O. J. Brown (and his mentor, Pitirim Sorokin) called a “sensate culture”, we should not be surprised by any of this. Long gone is the ideational culture that built the West, in which Christianity’s foundation of divinely revealed biblical truth shaped society, restraining man’s darker impulses. Since at least the Enlightenment, European civilization has been hell-bent on throwing off the shackles of the Christian Faith, consigning it to an ever-shrinking private sphere of life. In its place, the sensate culture demands that truth be drawn only from the immediate experiences of our physical faculties. One by one, the remnants of public morality grounded in revealed truth are questioned, jettisoned, then put on display for public ridicule. And as the sensate culture reaches its late and dying phase, virtually unguided by any ideational truth, all that remains is pleasure.

    Aaron D. Wolf
    “Hell-Bent: Why Gay Marriage Was Inevitable”
    Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. July 2013 (pp. 16-19)

  2. Trust is not cleverly shading words so that each separate audience can hear what it wants to hear, but saying plainly and simply what you mean and meaning what you say.

    Trust is not having to guess what a candidate means. Trust is leveling with the people before the election about what you’re going to do after the election. It’s not enough for anyone to say, “Trust me.” Trust must be earned.

    You are the people who pay the taxes and obey the laws. You are the people who make America what it is. It is from your ranks that I come and on your side I stand.

    U. S. President Gerald R. Ford
    University of Michigan
    1976 Presidential Campaign

  3. “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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

    The Declaration of Independence
    July 4, 1776

  4. We must be more honest with the American people. Promising them no more than we can deliver and delivering all that we promise.

    U. S. President Gerald R. Ford
    State of the Union Address
    January 19, 1976

  5. “The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.

    “As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God….

    “I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered enough and will continue to suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what we, as a great and good nation, can do together to make his goal of peace come true.

    “Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

    Gerald R. Ford
    September 8, 1974.
    Televised address to the nation

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