Every July 4th, Americans commemorate America’s independence from England. It is an occasion worthy of celebration. In the history of the world there are far too few instances where individuals have come together to throw off the shackles of tyrants.
When the colonists drafted the Declaration of Independence, they listed the string of abuses committed by King George III of England and his government agents. Contained in that list were references to high, confiscatory taxes, being forced to house British soldiers, being forced to allow soldiers into ones home to search for… well… whatever they wanted to search for, and just generally being treated as a kingdom asset to be used at the king’s discretion instead of as a free individual.
But, too many Americans will make the mistake of assuming, since they are free from England’s tyranny, that they are free from all tyranny. This is just not the case. In fact, America now exists in an increasing state of tyranny that (in many cases) exceeds the tyranny of King George III. Consider…
- Americans now pay higher tax rates than did the colonists under King George III.
- The U.S. government is actively seeking to curb (and even eliminate) a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.
- The U.S. government collecting the private information of citizens without their consent and without warrants. A practice that a former member of the Stasi (the East German secret police) says will be used against citizens.
- The U.S. president now regularly issues decrees (in the form of “executive orders”) that carry the weight of law.
- U.S. government agencies (the IRS) are used to intimidate political enemies of the president.
This list, which goes on and on, provides crystal clear evidence of one inescapable truth: America is free from England, but America is not free.
All of this reminds me of a line from the movie, “The Patriot.” Mel Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin, is debating with the delegates of the South Carolina legislature whether or not to join other colonies in seceding from England. He asks this question, “…why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king can.”
In that simple question, Gibson’s character hits upon a key doctrine — one that must be properly understood if we are to ever enjoy true freedom — the doctrine of man’s depravity.
Mankind is evil. This is a fact that is clearly declared in Scripture…
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” — Isaiah 64:6
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” — John 3:19
“The heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” — Jeremiah 17:9
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” — Ephesians 2:1-3
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All of these things come from within, and they defile a person.” — Mark 7:21-23
But, even if you don’t believe the Bible, the fact that mankind is inherent sinful is clearly observable in the world around us. Our innate selfishness, cruelty, greed, deceit, pride, foolishness is recorded throughout human history.
This fact was not lost on America’s founders. James Madison knew it, and insisted that governments only be established with precautions taken to limit the amount of power consolidated in one place.
“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” — James Madison
Thomas Jefferson knew it and helped outline (in the U.S. Constitution) the kinds of precautions Madison was talking about…
“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson
But power is addictive. And when evil men get their hands on power, they always try to accumulate more. That is why, over the course of more than 200 years, the federal government of the United States has morphed from a very small, limited government into a bloated leviathan that recognizes no limits on it’s own power.
So, where does that leave Americans who recognize this march toward totalitarianism? Where are most people (who want to reverse this trend) expending their efforts? I’ll tell you…
… In getting the “right kind of people” back into office.
This is why a proper understanding of the doctrine of man’s depravity is vitally important. We must understand there is no “right kind of people.” If you think we just need a better president, better senators, or better representatives then you are ripe for some very bitter disappointment. You are essentially saying the answer is to take enormous amounts of power out of the hands of infinitely corruptible people and put it into the hands of other infinitely corruptible people.
We’ve done that — for years.
Remember, just because a man occupies a government office does not mean he discards his sinful nature or his fleshly tendencies. Power is a strong temptation. An unregenerate man can’t be trusted with it. A regenerate man (a Christian) has been instructed by his Lord to “flee temptation” and ought to refuse such power.
We certainly have no business placing our trust — our faith — in a collection of mere men simply on the basis that they are called “the government.” Men are incapable of being better collectively than they are individually. This is why you can always count on the state to violate the rights of others, the biblical doctrine of man is in effect regardless of the number of men in the group.
So, does that mean freedom is lost for good?
No — because true freedom was never dependent upon men in the first place.
Men are slaves to sin…
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” — John 8:34
We are all helpless in our bondage to our own sin. If left to ourselves, we will always do evil. But real freedom comes when we are set free from this sinful nature that plagues us all.
“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” — John 8:36
When God removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, capable of responding to Him, we see ourselves for who we really are. We see others for who they really are. We recognize there is only One who is worthy of the kind of devotion we too frequently give to other men because they happen to hold some office.
I feel completely free today. Not because all of the despicable things the U.S. government has been doing don’t apply to me — they do. But because I know they are on a short leash. My Lord and my God has them completely under control. They will not exercise one iota of power over me that He does not allow. He may allow them to exercise more control than I think they should, but I trust Him.
Look to Scripture. Look to history. God has allowed tyrants to reign before. But it has always been for a purpose. His beautiful plan of redemption is unfolding on the pages of history and, in the end, even the wicked deeds of tyrants will have been nothing more than the sovereign maneuvers of a Holy God.
I am free today with a freedom no man can take.
If you want freedom — I mean real freedom — don’t look to the flag…
Look to the cross.