Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have been born in another country? And I don’t mean your personal, favorite fantasy country like, Ireland, where everything is green, soccer is the national pass time and you can drink beer when you’re like…12 or something. I mean someplace like Myanmar, which isn’t so much a country as it is a Military Regime, and is, from the top down opposed to Christianity and thinks nothing of throwing it’s evangelists in jail and using the native Christians as human mine sweepers. Do you ever wake up in America and just think…why me? Why America?
We live in a great country, don’t we? I think about those things sometimes and when I do and when I read the Bible and when I see how God saves people I am forced to conclude that even the country I’ve been born into, the family I’ve been born into, the area of the nation I’ve been born into, is God’s grace toward me.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. I was not decisive in determining when, how, where or to whom I would be born. I didn’t do anything to deserve being born in a land and time where there is relative peace and freedom to worship Jesus Christ nor did I choose it for myself and so I have to conclude that being born into a country with that freedom is God’s grace to me. There’s simply no other explanation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I pity people born in other countries, don’t hear that. What I’m getting at is, “do we think about the source of our freedom being God’s grace and do we consequently use our freedom in that light?”
We live in a country that is great because of how much freedom we have and we must first be aware that this is God’s grace to us. You could have been born in a country where church is burning incense for a little, fat, golden statue and where Christianity is treated not simply with derision but is often rewarded with jail or death.
But you weren’t.
You were born right here and instead of learning about Christ in a secret underground meeting consistently afraid that the door could be kicked in by men who were there to throw you in prison and possibly execute you, instead…you learned about him at VBS…or in youth group…or because of your neighbor, or because your wife would not leave you alone until you came to church. That is God’s grace to you. According to the perfect and divine counsel of God’s unchangeable will you were born into a country that is free.
The real question, then, is this, “How do you think God wants you to use that freedom?” After all, He gave it to you. You didn’t choose it or earn it. He gave it to you when he decided you were going to be an American AND, not only that, He gave you an eternal, imperishable freedom when he saved you through the work of his Son on the cross – and my question for us is, “do you think, just maybe, He has an opinion on how it’s to be used or how it’s not to be used?”
These were my initial thoughts in preparing the sermon from I Corinthians 9 where Paul explains why he gave up his rights and freedoms. What struck me about I Corinthians 9 is how Paul is simply trying to model his ministry after that of Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Humanity’s greatest need is God. Jesus Christ was free not to meet that need and provide us with the joy of a relationship with him. But, he chose, in his freedom to live as a man, die and rise in order to remove our guilt and provide our greatest need and our greatest joy.
Now, consider our freedom, American and Christian. How should we use it?
“19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (I Corinthians 9:19-23).