The freedoms we are blessed with in these United States came at a severe cost to those who envisioned it 238 years ago. As members of the Continental Congress in 1776 met in Philadelphia for the most remarkable epoch in the history of this nation, turmoil and chaos surrounded them at every turn.
British warships massed in the harbors of New York just waiting for an opportunity to subdue the city and push inland to capture the members of the congress, who had been declared traitors by the English government. As members of that congress labored to complete the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that he knew about "the toil and blood and treasures that it will cost us to maintain this declaration."
That congress, led by men who recognized that a successful nation could only be established by declaring clearly its dependence upon Almighty God, closed our Declaration of Independence solemnly declaring, "With firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Those 56 men who signed that document immediately became outlaws, objects for the hangman's noose if captured by the British army. We need to recall that these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia were not paupers. Most were wealthy men, secure in their wealth and respected in their communities. But they considered freedom and liberty to be more important than wealth and security.
Most of those men paid dearly for their passion for freedom and individual liberty. Five were captured and tortured before their deaths. Twelve had their homes sacked, looted and occupied by the enemy or destroyed. Two lost sons in battle. One had two sons captured. Nine died during the war from its hardships or from its bullets. Was their sacrifice worth the atrocities that came upon them? Ironically that question is ours to answer. How we live and the passion for freedom and liberty that we demonstrate will ultimately answer that question.
The responsibility with which we deal with the freedoms that have come to us at such a high cost reveals our attitudes toward their sacrifices.
The choices we make will determine if America will continue that legacy of greatness given to us by our founding fathers, or if our nation will simply fade into a footnote of history like other great nations such as Rome, Greece and even Great Britain. Our responsibility is to live lives that morally and spiritually transcend the dreams of the Founders and meet the expectations of our Heavenly Father. Our Founding Fathers could never have imagined the nation we are today. We are a great nation, but as we stretch a hand forward to greet the future, let us hold firmly to the hands that build our foundation.
When asked what had been produced in the Constitution of the United States, Benjamin Franklin replied, "A republic -- if you can keep it." I am convinced that we are in danger of losing the republic that came to us at such drastic cost to our forefathers. The Bible clearly declares, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:14). The Psalmist proclaimed, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalms 33:12). We are no longer a nation of righteousness whose God is the Lord.
As we celebrate our Independence and our liberties this July 4th, let us confess that we are heading down the path to extreme godlessness unless a sweeping revival occurs in this land. Let us fast and pray for believers to step forward courageously to take a stand for righteousness and the heritage that was handed to us 238 years ago. Let us stand together as we petition our Lord to intervene dramatically and supernaturally to spiritually transform our nation and our world.
The healing of our nation will not come through political action or political activities. It will not come through political correctness or through social and moral inclusivism. It will never come through inspiring speeches by prominent leaders of our nation. It will not come through the clever and impressive creativity of our churches or church leaders. The cancerous growth in the heart of our nation today can only be healed by a supernatural movement of God in our midst. As we celebrate our past in these coming days, let us pray earnestly for an awakening of divine proportions to fall upon our hearts and throughout our land.
James T. Draper Jr. is interim president of Criswell College in Dallas, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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