One of my favorite messages from social media this year said, “I’m not adding this year 2020 to my age. I did not use it.”
I heard another of my favorite messages last week on a Christian radio station. The host said, “If something or someone brings out the worst in you, then recognize the worst that is in you, and do something about it.”
Independence Day 2020
Last March, when we first began dealing with all these germs, did you picture yourself wearing a mask in July?
We probably should have, but, generally speaking, we didn’t expect this to last so long. However, to be blunt, the Santa at the mall this Christmas will probably be wearing a mask. Entrepreneurs: get those Christmas 2020 shirts ready.
Never mind, we won’t want to wear them!
There won’t be huge family picnics this July 4th or baseball games with fireworks, even though we could really use some happy reminders to celebrate America this year. The truth is, we are blessed to live in this country, even during its worst days.
We need to celebrate Independence Day, but maybe with an expanded focus.
We need to celebrate our most significant freedom.
Jesus came to offend people
People will always have differences this side of heaven. We know that, but we should also expect that.
One of Satan’s favorite tools is comparison. If we notice the differences, we automatically begin to choose which we prefer. Those thoughts lead to what we believe is best, and then we seek to prove that what we believe is best.
Jesus entered the world in a hostile period of history. The Jewish nation believed they were better than the Gentiles. The Romans believed they were better than almost everyone. Those emotions led to arguments, slander, prejudice, and oppression.
Jesus chose to enter the world during political and social unrest. His ministry caused a revolution. He didn’t take anyone’s “side,” and his preaching was offensive to almost everyone.
Jesus taught everyone that no one was “right” and everyone was wrong—except him. It is easy to understand why most people were offended by his teaching and considered him dangerous.
Imagine if Jesus preached that message today!
Jesus was offensive for a good reason
Early in his ministry, he was speaking at the temple to a group of Pharisees and other Jewish men. He told them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
They questioned his words, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (v. 33).
The Jewish people were offended by Jesus’ suggestion that they were not “free.” They were Abraham’s descendants, which, in their minds, meant they were superior to anyone who wasn’t.
Jesus then taught the Jewish people one of the most significant truths in Scripture: “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (vv. 34–36).
Jewish people believed they were right because they were part of Abraham’s bloodline. Romans believed they were right because they were more powerful, more educated, and often wealthy. Gentiles believed in whatever felt right to them personally.
Jesus taught that no one was right unless they were righteous. Then he taught them how to be righteous. Jesus needed to offend everyone so everyone could understand their offenses. It is that humility that taught people they needed salvation.
Let Jesus bring out the worst in you
Jesus wants to cleanse our lives from the sins that enslave us to the world’s standards, the world’s thoughts, and our reactions to the things of this world. If the sinful things aren’t part of our lives, then the world’s moments can’t bring those things out of us.
The goal is to be holy; it always has been. Throughout the Bible, God’s word to his people has always been, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), and Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Everyone needs Jesus to bring out the worst in us. If Jesus brings the worst out in us, then it won’t be there for someone or something else to draw out.
This is a good month to consider our freedoms and be grateful. But a lot of Americans only think they are free. The important questions are why do we believe we are free, and what does that freedom require of us?
Henry David Thoreau said, “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”
Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
The question for Independence Day 2020 is: What freedoms are we able to celebrate?
We live in a democracy where people are free to speak, act, and choose. But we aren’t really free without self-discipline. We are free to make this country a better place, and, sadly, we are free to do the opposite.
No one can be truly free apart from freedom in Christ. 2020 has been a powerful illustration for the truth of God’s word. The world has brought out the worst in many of us. The good news is that we know the worst is always hidden in us—unless Jesus brings it out first.
Do you want Jesus to bring out the worst in you?
Scripture teaches us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
It isn’t hard to get rid of the worst in ourselves. The challenge is to maintain our independence.
We can take the trash out today, but there will be more tomorrow. The good news is that it will always get picked up and hauled away. We don’t have to keep it around.
Some people will not want to think about 2020 because they didn’t “use it.” For others, it may become one of the best years of their lives. It just depends on what 2020 brings out of us.
May we pray for and achieve the independence Jesus came to give.