Independence special: Being independent and free in the worship of God.

Sunday July 1, 2018


Title: Independence special: Being independent and free in the worship of God.


All of us should know the feeling of power that comes from knowing that we can live and walk in the only truth and goodness and virtue that Christ has graciously given us, and that no circumstance, person or group of persons no matter how powerful in worldly matters, can stop us.


George Whitefield, an Anglican priest assigned to the colony of Georgia in the 1730’s. Georgia had four prohibitions: rum, slavery, Roman Catholics, and lawyers. It didn’t prosper however. It was taken over by the crown in 1753.


Whitefield, in the rum-less Georgia, ministered for a year and then returned to England in order to raise money for an orphanage that he wanted to build in Savanna. However, Whitefield was led towards another type of ministry. He was led to travel and preach in public.


Whitefield travelled all over the colonies as a preacher. He travelled all over Europe. He gave an estimated 18,000 sermons. He published his sermons which sold rapidly. His words were read in every corner of the new world.


Whitefield: There is no religion without religious enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means God within us. You are not saved until you have felt God within you. You have to be born again.


From Whitefield’s sermon on regeneration: To be in Him not only by an outward profession, but by an inward change and purity of heart, and cohabitation of his Holy Spirit. To be in Him, so as to be mystically united to Him by a true and lively faith, and thereby to receive spiritual virtue from Him, as the members of the natural body do from the head, or the branches from the vine.


Whitefield’s main thrust seems to have been against the person who got baptized and went to church every Sunday because it was expected of them, and who had no day to day personal relationship with Christ that resulted in the fruit of the Spirit. At that time, in some of the American communities, church attendance was required, and if not by law, by public ostracization.


In a place where a great nation was in its infancy, Whitefield had fertile ground to teach the freedom that comes from a relationship with God between each believer priest and his Lord, and without some other body as an intermediary, like a denomination.


All of us should know the feeling of power that comes from knowing that we can live and walk in the only truth and goodness and virtue that Christ has graciously given us, and that no circumstance, person or group of persons no matter how powerful in worldly matters, can stop us.


Pic: DOI


We celebrate freedom this weekend. 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, second paragraph]


All the established denominations hated Whitefield. Anglicans, Puritans, and Congregationalists were the main denominations at first. Whitefield revealed that many of them were only playing church and were not emphasizing the gospel as a means of being born-again and regenerated, and the spiritual life as being life changing.


Soon there was an invasion of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Calvinists, Unitarians, and some Jews, who settled in Newport RI, and these new denominations were considered dissenters by the established churches and were persecuted.


In the colony of Connecticut, it was actually illegal to be a Baptist.


Not exactly religious freedom.   


Everywhere Whitefield went he drew huge crowds. Whitefield had the effect of revealing traditional Christianity, ecclesiastical with its ceremony, ritual, and “reasonable” call to not so deep a commitment. He railed against the lack of personal commitment by professing Christians to the word of God, the lack personal relationship with Christ, and the failure of many to personally and responsibly learn the scriptures for themselves and not as it was dictated by the organized church.


Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, was a former Puritan leader who was expelled from Massachusetts. He famously wrote that “forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”


The population of America in the eighteenth century, which actually doubled every 25 years, grew at far too fast a rate to be compatible with the maintenance of traditional comparatively uniform religious communities within the colonies.


America was fertile ground for Whitefield and also for other denominations that arrived on her shores.


Whitefield caused an awakening, but as are all things of real history, not everyone in the colonies turned to a strictly Bible based, personal, and deep relationship with God.


The colonies were independent, or at least quasi-independent, and each had their own ideas on religion. Some denominations were outlawed in certain colonies and the several denominations continued in strife.


Yet, am I to do and think what an organization tells me or what I think the Bible teaches me?


Political power automatically gravitates toward the center, in government and in an organization of churches (denomination).


The individual loses power. He begins to rely on the central authority, which is made up of a few men who possess all the power of the organization and this is fertile soil for corruption.


When a Christian church develops into a denomination, then power will gravitate away from the people and towards the center or governing board. The members defer to the doctrines that issue forth from the governing body without thought to their Biblical foundation. This is slavery and not independence.


In our nation, the purpose of the Constitution, namely in the separation of powers, is to prevent centralization from happening. It is such a good document that it has prevented it in so many ways, yet for well over a hundred years now, men have found ways around the Constitution and centralization has occurred in an enormous federal government with an enormous budget and an overly powerful executive branch.


In society, centralization destroys liberty and removes decision making from the local level. This process removes the common man from any spirit of “voluntarism” and they lose the will to solve their own problems.


Independence: the ability to solve your own problems with the scripture and the Spirit.


The same happens in Christianity when a believer refuses or is incapable of solving his own problems through his own knowledge of the Scripture. He may constantly seek the counsel of his pastor or other leaders.


When Jesus left the disciples:


Joh 16:13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.


Joh 16:14 "He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.


Many would turn to the disciples/apostles to help them make decisions, but Who did they turn to? All believers are priests and possess direct access to God with no other intermediary than the Lord Jesus Christ.


Each of us has to make our own decisions and solve our own problems. Some Christians take the saying, “Let go and let God,” to mean that they will decide nothing for themselves, possess no reasoning skills or powers based on scripture and the Holy Spirit, and that God will force them to do the right thing, or turn their bad decisions into right ones.


“Balancing the above (1Ti 2:9-10), we might say, that the Christian is a free moral agent, not a machine, and is expected by God to exercise self-control by a free act of his will, doing this however in the energy which the Holy Spirit supplies to the yielded Christian. It is a happy combination and inter-working of the free will of the believer and the grace of God.” [Wuest]


Independence must not be independence from God, but from false teachers, false doctrines, and ruling emotions.


It was because of emotion and not guiding principles of truth that made the French Revolution so different than our own. Their revolution only led to another dictator, Napoleon.


Without any government there is anarchy. We must not be independent from God and we also must freely make our own good decisions based on His word and the enlightening power of God the Holy Spirit.


We are in independent assembly. There is no bishop or board of directors telling me what to teach and how. I rely on the Holy Spirit and great pastors and theologians and linguists to pull together what God reveals in His inspired scripture.


Still, a Christian may think that his independent pastor is responsible for his knowledge and therefore for his decisions. Can a believer follow a pastor’s instruction that is not in accordance with sound doctrine and be free from all accountability? Obviously not. We are each responsible for our own growth. This is independence, and right in his doctrines or not (I haven’t read one sermon from him) Whitefield opened up the possibility in the minds of Christians all over the American colonies, 30 years before our war with England, that each one of are responsible for our relationship with God and that that relationship ought to be one, according to his words, filled with religious enthusiasm. Whitefield’s platform was being born again, meaning that your Christianity should be something more than attending a service and going through some rituals. In this he was quite correct.


However, independence to worship God cannot become independence from God. What I mean is that I cannot determine for myself what is worship of God.


It cannot be enough that it sounds good to me or makes sense to me. I am not to determine its worth or merit or use my reason to determine what it is. I am to look to the scriptures as they plainly reveal it. And in my estimation, in the pursuit of truth, I find that often times less is more. What I mean by that is that pulling every doctrinal truth through a meat grinder, and then a fine-tooth comb, and then a prism, and then a sieve will often distract a believer from the simplicity and beauty of God’s truth.


Just before Jesus began His ministry, the Jews were under a Pharisaic Judaism, which they had been for generations. It was a religion as stated from a central authority – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. But not even they were in agreement.


The point is that the people had left Biblical Judaism in favor of what the Pharisees said was true worship of God.


God sent John the Baptist to prepare them for the coming Messiah. John’s message was repentance (turn from Pharisaic Judaism to biblical Judaism).


The word “repentance” means “to change one’s mind or to turn away from one thing towards another.” In essence, John the Baptist was calling upon the Jewish people to repent or change their minds about which Judaism they were going to follow: pharisaic Judaism or biblical Judaism.


Those who were willing to make the commitment and follow biblical Judaism would undergo water baptism to show their new identification with John’s kingdom message. This message was based upon biblical Judaism, the only Judaism that would qualify the people for Messiah’s kingdom.


When truth is examined from the inspired scriptures, in humility and a knowing dependence upon God the Holy Spirit, and this must be done in depth until the truth of the passage reveals itself, when that truth is seen, the believer need only to rest in it and he will have the freedom that only the son of a King can have.


Luk 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.


Luk 18:11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.


Luk 18:12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'


Luk 18:13 "But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'


Luk 18:14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."


The fasting the tithing of the Pharisee were good, but one thing in his heart was very wrong and that made everything else wrong. His own pride was manifested in the fact that he thought that he was justified by his actions in accordance with the Law. That is very unbiblical and so he was a slave and not free.


Satan desires to enslave every man and every nation. The Son came to set every man and every nation free if they will have Him.


Joh 8:31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;


Joh 8:32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " 


Joh 8:33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You shall become free'?"


Joh 8:34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.


In our study on “abide” we saw that God’s seed abides in every believer and so he cannot continually sin and his conscience is convicted when he does so. We are sinless but we are no longer slaves to our sin natures. We are sons who remain in the house, the home that Christ has prepared for us, and so we are free.


Joh 8:35 "And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.


Joh 8:36 "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.


Joh 8:37 "I know that you are Abraham's offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.


Joh 8:38 "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father."


They say they are not slaves, and yet they seek to kill the Messiah, the Son of God.


Examine the truth in the Scripture in humility and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and then set your mind to live in it. Only in this is there freedom in this world.


Don’t fall into the trap of the man who was told to go and love his neighbor who then wanted further clarification on who was his neighbor. Go and love your neighbor was enough, dissection time was over and doing time had begun.


Our founders, some of whom were deists and not Christians (Franklin and Jefferson) fully supported Christianity in the colonies because even the deists understood that the principles of Christianity were vital to freedom and republic.


The divine pattern of law for human happiness requires recognition of God’s supremacy over all things. Freedom is not anarchy.  


Man is specifically forbidden to attribute God’s power to false gods.


Exo 20:1Then God spoke all these words, saying,


Exo 20:2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt [Israel’s fourth of July], out of the house of slavery.


I am the One who set you free and gave you a free nation that was promised prosperity if the people followed My law.


Exo 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.


Exo 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.


Exo 20:5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,


Exo 20:6 but showing lovingkindness [chesed] to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.


Every oath taken in the name of God is to be carried out with the utmost fidelity, otherwise the name of God would be taken in vain.


Exo 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.


At least one day a week should be set aside to the study of the Scriptures and that that day would be a day of worship and the personal renewing of one’s commitment to obey God’s law for happy living.


In some communities in the American colonies, church attendance was required. In some cases, groups of men would go around on Sunday morning and round up the slackers. It cannot be forced, but for a nation to prosper there must be enough members of society who choose to study the Scriptures. The entirety of the Western Tradition is based on biblical principles of freedom and morality.


Exo 20:8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.


Exo 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,


Exo 20:10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.


Exo 20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.


There are also requirements to strengthen family ties by children honoring parents and parents maintaining the sanctity of their marriage and not committing adultery after marriage.


Exo 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.


Human life is also to be kept sacred. He who willfully and wantonly takes the life of another must forfeit his own.


Exo 20:13 "You shall not murder.


Exo 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery.


A person must not lie, or steal. Every person must be willing to work for the things he desires from life and not coven and scheme to get the things which belong to his neighbor.


Exo 20:15 "You shall not steal.


Exo 20:16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.


Exo 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."


God’s laws are immutable. While societies and cultures change, these do not.

© Grace and Truth Ministries / Pastor Joseph Sugrue • • All rights reserved.