The Battle For Independence

Happy 4th of July!

Today is a day we celebrate our nation’s independence from British rule. Did you know we were already essentially at war with Great Britain a year before the momentous event of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? It took seven more years to win our independence. Battles had to be won and lost and thousands of lives were sacrificed until Great Britain formally recognized our independence. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

Declaring independence and winning it are two different things.

As believers, we declare our independence from sin when we surrender our lives to Christ, but that declaration is just the beginning of our battles. We are free from the power of sin, but as God reminded Cain in yesterday’s reading, it crouches at the door, and we must master it.

Today I read Genesis 20-22. Each chapter contains a significant event in Abraham’s life. In these few verses, we see him go from a man still struggling with his human tendencies for self-preservation to his defining act of faith that made him the father of nations through which the Savior would be born. Abraham had to win his battles for independence from self-sufficiency and human wisdom to become the man God wanted to use.

In chapter 20, Abraham lies for the second time to preserve his own life. As they make their way through King Abimelech’s territory, he presents his wife, Sarah as his sister, fearing the king will kill him to take her into his harem. Apparently, Sarah must have been quite a beautiful woman for this possibility to weigh so heavily on Abraham each time he went into a pagan king’s region. Abimelech does indeed take Sarah, but God keeps him from touching her, warning him in a dream. When confronted, Abraham confesses his lie, saying it is partially true (Sarah was his half-sister), but ultimately, he lied because he knew he was at risk of death. Abimelech sends Abraham on his way, glad to get him out of his kingdom.

In chapter 21, God finally fulfills the promise He made to Abraham and Sarah. After twenty-five years, Sarah gives birth to a son, Isaac. Of course, this has come after Abraham tried to fix things on his own, producing a son by Sarah’s maid. Things come to a head when Sarah demands Hagar and Ishmael leave the camp to protect Isaac’s inheritance. Abraham is grieved, but this time, he asks for God’s wisdom. He has to “give up his Ishmael” and sends them out, trusting God to take care of them. We see his faith has grown, and he is trusting God more fully, even though his heart hurts for Ishmael, and this painful experience has come about from his own schemes.

In chapter 22, we read the story of Abraham’s greatest test of faith. God tells him to go up on the mountain and sacrifice his son, Isaac. By this time, having seen God perform the miracle of Isaac’s birth, he does not hesitate to obey, fully believing that if God wills it, He will also raise up Isaac from the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19). We see this in his words to his servants.

Genesis 22:5 – Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

How did Abraham go from self-preservation half-truths to believing God could raise his son from the dead? He won his independence from sin and self. He kept walking faithfully. He never gave up on God’s promises. God chipped away at his independence and self-reliance, and as he gave up on his own plans, recognized his own failures, and willingly let go of the world he’d built by his own strategies, he won his independence from sin.

He was truthful about his motives, confessing to Abimelech he was protecting his own life, not Sarah’s.

He gave up his Ishmael, the living embodiment of doing things his way instead of waiting on God’s plan.

He learned to obey quickly, without hesitation, when God clearly asked him to surrender the dearest things to his heart.

When our nation won its independence from Great Britain, it became dependent on one another to create a new nation, a new way of life. As we battle for our spiritual independence from sin and selfishness, we become more dependent on God, His Word, and His people.

Just as our nation was formed out of a new constitution and bill of rights paid for by the blood of the soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives, our spiritual life is also formed from a new covenant – the covenant of grace and mercy for which Jesus sacrificed His life.

Independence is a good thing until it’s not. My hope for our nation today is that we could see beyond our differences and care for one another as precious and valuable creations. From the child just conceived in the womb to the oldest and most vulnerable who are in their last moments of life on this earth, we are made in the image of God and loved by God. My prayer is that this truth would be proclaimed, that the gospel would be embraced, and that men and women would turn from their sin of selfishness and self-preservation and surrender their rights to the God who made them.

It’s Independence Day. May we be willing to win the battles of freedom from sin, but live more dependent on God every day.

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