Jun 28th, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 84 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about Life, Liberty, and Pursuit.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence reads, “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.” Epic words that will no doubt be echoed from the four corners of the world until the world is no more. However, on face value I take issue not with life and liberty, but with the pursuit of happiness. Or more specifically I take issue with what that pursuit of happiness has come to mean in a world where most best-selling novels are written at a middle school reading level. In a world where the slightest of offenses causes people to go off on rants. In a world where people just aren’t quite sure what they want so they lash out at everything, even the things that are set up to help them. So, let’s take a Biblical look at these three of unalienable Rights that rose to the top of Thomas Jefferson’s mind as he was penning the Declaration of Independance.
Let’s start where Jefferson did, with life. In John 10:10 CSB it is recorded that Jesus said, “ A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” We have this problem of death that wasn’t in the original design. Adam and Eve weren’t designed to die, they were designed to live forever. However, Romans 5 tells us that through the sin of Adam death entered the world and was passed down to his descendants. Then starting in verse 15 of Romans 5 CSB we read, “ But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man's trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed to the many.  And the gift is not like the one man's sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.  Since by the one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone.  For just as through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
What Jesus did, didn’t get rid of physical death, it paved the path to spiritual eternal life. It acquitted the guilty judgment, the condemnation of all man, and gave them a pathway to receive spiritual life through faith.
Concerning truth, so many quote Jesus without ever knowing the source, John 8:32 CSB, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s not a statement all to it’s own though, when we go to John 8 and read verses 31 and 32 CSB we find, “ Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s a very specific truth. In continuing in Jesus word, we make ourselves true disciples of Christ we will then know the truth and that truth will set us free.
Freedom for some, though, whether they want to admit, is a terrifying concept. If you give people the freedom to choose to do wrong aren’t you endorsing bad behavior? No, no you’re not endorsing bad behavior by saying people have the freedom to choose to be good or bad. To follow God or not, Galatians 5:1 CSB does urge, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don't submit again to a yoke of slavery.” However, If we continue on in Galatians 5 we see that the concern of the chapter isn’t slavery to sin, but slavery to religion instead. Slavery to religion instead of the freedom of Christ. Paul addresses one issue of the religious law in particular that Christians had started adhering to, but we pick up in verse 4, “ You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.  For we eagerly await through the Spirit, by faith, the hope of righteousness.” He goes on to explain that neither keeping, nor not keeping religious law accomplishes anything in Christ and that what matters is faith working through love.
When we think of happiness today, the part that I have issue with, our understanding of the word is based almost solely off of the word happenstance. Strictly that word means circumstance, but we rely on it as positive circumstance. This chase of positive circumstances leads us to drug and alcohol abuse, binging on food and entertainment, a search for preaching and teaching that justifies our lifestyle and makes us feel good, and the illusion of business or financial success with the “riches” it affords. It makes us victims for scammers who say they have “found money” for us.
Concerning happiness, Thomas Jefferson, who penned the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” that we find in The Declaration of Independence wrote a letter to William Short in October of 1819. (https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0850) Jefferson says to Short, “I take the liberty of observing that you are not a true disciple of our master Epicurus, in indulging the indolence to which you say you are yielding. One of his canons, you know, was that ‘that indulgence which prevents a greater pleasure, or produces a greater pain, is to be avoided.’ Your love of repose will lead, in it’s progress, to a suspension of healthy exercise, a relaxation of mind, an indifference to every thing around you, and finally to a debility of body and hebetude of mind, the farthest of all things from the happiness which the well regulated indulgences of Epicurus ensure.”
According to this sentiment, when Jefferson wrote “pursuit of happiness,” he more likely had in mind something along the lines of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, “ I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.  I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.  I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”
As we live our lives and enjoy our liberty, let’s keep our eyes set on the true happiness of physical contentment and not be duped by the world’s substitutes.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”