THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Independence Day 2018

Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. [Romans 6:14 (MSG)]

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. [Declaration of Independence]

uncle sam - lady libertyToday we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 242 years ago. It was then that American colonists shed the tyranny of Great Britain and King George III to form a new nation—the United States of America. Among the unalienable rights cited in this historic declaration were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This weekend, we’ll enjoy life, celebrate our liberty and pursue some happiness with a variety of activities that may include the beach, picnics, cook-outs, flags, fireworks, or parades.

The Declaration of Independence tells us that we have the right to pursue happiness and God has allowed us the freedom to choose how we do that. Having the freedom to pursue happiness, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that we always choose our pursuits wisely. Adam and Eve decided to pursue a little happiness and knowledge when they saw a delicious looking apple and David sought happiness and pleasure with Bathsheba as did Sampson with Delilah. A hungry Esau pursued happiness and satisfaction with a hearty bowl of stew and Sarah pursued happiness and a baby through Hagar. Achan pursued happiness and wealth when he kept plunder from Jericho and so did Saul when he kept the best spoils from Agag. Like many of us, Noah sought happiness in too much wine. None of those situations had happy endings.

A prevalent attitude in our nation seems to be one of “if it feels good, do it.” We might want to think that one over a bit and exercise some caution when pursuing happiness. We may live in a free country and God may have given us free will, but we need to be sure we don’t ever use that freedom to fall into tyranny, a tyranny much worse than that of King George III: the tyranny of sin.

There are two freedoms—the false, where man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought. [Charles Kingsley]

So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! [Romans 6:15-18 (MSG)]

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