Glorious & Free

On June 28, 2020 a group of five churches came together, at Bethel Church, in Sarnia ON, Canada. It was a privilege to serve by giving the message: "Glorious & Free". Let's continue to pray for our country, our leaders, and be intentional about making a positive, Kingdom difference where we live across our land.

It was a drive in service, due to the COVID-19 restrictions for gathering in person. It was a wonderful evening of celebration as a city wide family of churches. You can view the whole service at this link. 

Here is the transcript as well as the video of the message:

“God Keep Our Land Glorious and Free”
Romans 8:14-39

“God Keep Our Land Glorious and Free”

I love those words. I love to hear them sung, whether it’s in a class of elementary students, at a sporting event or before a gold medal hockey game. The power of those words continues to have a deepening impact on me, as I grow in appreciation for this country, my country, our country of Canada. 

Glory and Freedom. 

For many of us here, Glory is easy to understand. Glory is the impressionable, tangible evidence, that evokes recognition, praise, honour and responsive action. We understand this term well.  The anthems of our congregations often use this word or are a reflection of its essence. We give God glory because He is sovereign, or has Dominion over us, which is the manner in which our Confederate fathers defined our nation.  Therefore, singing of God’s glory, in our anthem is a sound reminder, each time, that there is a desire for the character or nature of God to be found in our land. With raised voices we long for the evidence of God, and when we see it, feel it and experience it, then we ought to give Him the praise and thanks that He is due.  God keep our land glorious…indeed. 

Freedom is a different story. 

In 1969, my parents arrived in Montreal, from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad. Canada had opened up its borders to immigrants of many nations and promised, among many good things: freedom. The freedom to good education and the freedom of a prospering economy. My parents brought with them, hardly anything, other than an adorable one year old son. In 1980 when my father took his oath of citizenship, I became a citizen of this country. My agreement with his action changed my citizenship. Suddenly additional freedoms became possible. Isn’t that way we most often think of freedom? As “freedom from” – in our case a struggling third world economy. 

We perceive a limitation, guardrail, boundary, rule, law and hardship as taking away freedom.  So we resist any threat to what we subjectively perceive as freedom. 

We can also be guilty of thinking of freedom from a selfish perspective, as “freedom to”. We use words like: “I deserve this”; “I’ve earned it”.  

These cultural definitions of freedom are actually a distortion of God’s intention. 

On a national scale, in 1984, the government of the day introduced a landmark document entitled the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was touted as the necessary update of our century old Constitution. In the thirty-plus years since the introduction of that document, we have continually seen the word “freedom” tossed around in its more political clothes, “autonomy”.

The definition of AUTONOMY is:  the quality or state of being self-governing or self-directing freedom and especially moral independence.

In an open forum a few years ago, author and Christian apologist, Os Guiness, said this:  
“freedom is a paradox in our current culture; we want to be free, but we want to protect ourselves from the freedom of others. We want to be free, but we want to deny the freedom of others.” 

In a society like ours, the push and pull of the perceived freedoms of different people groups no matter how much of a minority they are, must be recognized because we have defined freedom as being without limitations, guidelines, guardrails, rules, law and hardship.

How’s that working out for us?

So, now we have this tension: God wants us to experience freedom, but we’ve redefined freedom to serve ourselves.  

Understanding what the Bible actually tell us about glory and freedom would then seem to be important?

Instead of the resistance laden “freedom from” or the self-serving “freedom to”; biblical freedom leads to God’s glory, because it is a “freedom for”: Crying Out, Speaking Hope, Loving Generously.

Complaining to Crying Out (Romans 8:14-21)

Romans 8:15, tells us that as children of God, we have the freedom for crying out in full confidence to our Heavenly Father, our Daddy, our Abba, by the power of the Spirit given to us. 

There is a need for Spirit empowered people to refuse to be drawn into the pettiness of complaints against those in authority and those who oppose our views. Rather we should use our freedom for seeking greater understanding of people and social issues and then to cry out on behalf of the injustices that too many are facing. We must stop complaining and cry out on behalf of those whom God in his sovereignty has put in place to govern. As followers of Jesus we must make the transition from complaining to the freedom for crying out to our Heavenly Father. For it is there that glory is found.

Protest to Prophesy (Romans 8:22-27)

Secondly, as those who have tasted redemption in Jesus, we have the freedom for speaking hope or prophesying. We must not be satisfied by pointing out or social media posting about injustice. We have a glory driven mandate to speak the promises of hope, as beams of light into a prevailing cultural and political darkness. No amount of darkness can ever overcome light…as carriers of hope, God’s Spirit is enabling as you engage the cultural mess of the world around us with the eternal hope that is ours as followers of Jesus. 

It’s a hope that compels us to not only, stand against injustice, in protest, but to stand with the broken, the lonely, the poor, the widow, the fatherless. 
It’s a hope that moves us not first to political activism, but to personal interaction. 
Romans 8:22 reminds us that there’s a groaning going on presently, in the lives of the people around us. There’s a groaning for a hope beyond what they see. We need a hope that is greater than a government handout. A hope that is more life-preserving than an elusive vaccine. There is a yearning to live and yet a fear about life that men and women boys and girls are anxiously finding difficult to describe. Our country needs to hear the reason for the hope we carry. We are the messengers. We must prophesy. We must speak the hope of Gods promises. 

There is a need for the people of eternal perspective to make the transition from protest to prophesy: to speak freely, and gracefully about the certain glorious hope of Kingdom to Come, knowing that God is revealing glimpses of it, even now here on earth as it is heaven. It is in the freedom of speaking hope that the glory of God is found.  

The freedom for crying out, the freedom for speaking hope and thirdly, there is a freedom for loving generously. 

Like to Love  (Romans 8:28-39)

Romans 8:28-39 reminds us that as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, we have freedom for loving generously just like Christ loved us because we know that, God is going to work out His sovereign plan, and we cannot be separated from the love God first shows to us. We must love because He abundantly loves.

There is room in our current low touch, high need culture for people to exercise their freedom for loving generously, like Jesus.  In that freedom for loving others as Christ has sacrificially loved us, the glory of God is spread across our neighbourhoods, cities and country.  The love of God is not to be held close, or confined to our like-minded gatherings. The love of God must push out into the marginalized areas of our communities, coming alongside those in need and those who otherwise have no voice. As instruments in the hand of God, we move outward in love, as we are more than conquerors. Generous Love rings and reverberates the sounds of glory and freedom. 

The peace tower sits in the middle of the centre block of our parliament buildings, in Ottawa. It is a symbol of freedom for all angles and throughout the ages of our nation. At the top of the Peace Tower there are 53 bells. When not under renovation, those bells get rung throughout the day, in particular every hour on the hour. The largest bell, #53, weighs the same as three adult elephants. In 1926 – Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie had the words of Luke 2:14 inscribed on the largest bell. Those words, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on the earth peace, good will to men.”
This country is not the country of my birth, but it is my home. This country is where I live, but my citizenship is in heaven, because of my belief in the redemptive actions Jesus Christ on behalf of all people, of all nations, of all languages. When I sing O Canada, I am thankful, not only for this land, but for the land I long for.  
May we never again sing it as a song of occasion, rather as an anthem of praise, and commissioning to cry out, and speak hope and to love generously. May you understand that those best equipped to point to glory and act as guardians of freedom are you, my brothers and sisters, united in Jesus Christ. 

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…and all God’s people honked their horns….Amen!!