John Bradshaw - The Price of Freedom
I'm John Bradshaw, and this is It Is Written. Thanks for joining me today. This is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, the most famous battle of the American Civil War. Today, the old battlefields of Gettysburg look a whole lot like they did a century and a half ago. A lot of effort has been taken to keeping the Gettysburg battlefields in condition as original as possible. The American Civil War lasted four years, from 1861 to 1865. Thousands of people perished during the American Civil War, 700,000 is the number that is often quoted today and several thousand individuals died here at Gettysburg.
Today, we refer to the war as the American Civil War. But down through time, it has been called a number of different things. It was called the war between the states. The South referred to it as the war of succession. Immediately after the war, the North called it the war of rebellion. There's a lot of controversy over what actually brought about the start of the American Civil War, but the facts are these. Eleven southern states declared their succession from the United States and began to call themselves the Confederated States of America or, The Confederacy. The remaining 25 states remained loyal to the United States Government, and they became known as The Union. After this split, really, fighting was simply inevitable.
One fact most people will agree on is that slavery was a central issue in the Civil War. The controversy became so intense, so hot, that it brought about the end of some political parties, including the Wigs and the No Nothing party. And it caused the Democratic party to be split in two, between the North and the South. But the violence wasn't contained only to the battlefield. In fact, on the floor of the US Senate, a South Carolina Congressman by the name of Preston Brooks, violently assaulted a Republican politician by the name of Charles Sumner. He beat him so badly that he beat him almost to death. The reason for this violent assault is that Sumner insulted Southern slave owners and one of Brooks' own relatives as referring to them as pimps for slavery.
At the start of the Civil War, there were 9 million people living in the American South. Four million of them were slaves, almost 50% of the population. Slavery was a dark episode in the history of the United States. Slavery has existed for thousands of years. The Bible not only mentions slavery but it provides guidelines as to how slaves should be treated. And if a man smite his servant, his slave, or his maid with a rod and he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished and if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake. That's Exodus 21: 26, 27.
Now let's not be confused by this and think that because the Bible says that that God somehow approves of slavery. God certainly does not. In fact, it says this in Acts 17:24-26. God that made the world and all things therein seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth life to all, and breath and all things, and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation.
In fact, it was Jesus who said in Luke 6:27-31, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you and pray for them which despitefully use you and unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other. And him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take your coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Unfortunately, many people during the Civil War didn't see it that way. What's tragic is that religious slave holders professed Christians used the slavery guidelines found in the book of Exodus to say that God actually supported slavery.
President Abraham Lincoln saw this for what it really was. In a letter that he wrote to Reverend Dr. Ide, dated May 30, 1864, he said this: "Those professedly holy men of the South met in semblance of prayer and devotion and in the name of Him who said 'as you would all men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them', appealed to the Christian world to aid them in doing to a whole race of men as they would have no man do unto themselves. To my thinking they contemned and insulted God and his church, far more than did Satan when he tempted the Saviour with the Kingdoms of the Earth". We can thank God that slavery has been abolished. Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery and did so in 1981. However, because sin is what sin is, slavery still exists. They say that because of human trafficking, there are more slaves in the world now than at any other time in human history.
I'm here in Gettysburg, in a store, a shop, that houses many Civil War artifacts, including implements that we used in slavery. These two items here that you see are collars worn around the necks of slaves. They are genuine and they were used. The protruding spikes are there to discourage slaves from trying to escape. If they tried to escape, the spikes would get caught in underbrush or growth or branches or so on and would lead to the slaves being recaptured which, of course, would not be pretty. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
It's time for today's Bible question. A friend of mine says we need to keep the 10 commandments in order to go to heaven. But my preacher says that the law was nailed to the cross and because of Jesus, we no longer need to keep the law. He said something about the law being an old covenant and now since the cross, all we need is grace. Now wouldn't that be a funny thing! Jesus telling people that it's okay to disobey him now. Can you imagine that? Jesus saying it's okay to commit adultery? It's okay to steal. It's okay to kill because we are under a new covenant. If grace is a ticket for people to live spiritually irresponsible lives, than grace is something we could do without.
Let's be clear. Salvation is given by grace through faith. It's free. It's a gift. We cannot earn it by our obedience or anything else. The gift of salvation is not conferred based upon our performance. But let's balance that. Look on the other side of the coin. What about once a person has come to Jesus and has received salvation. How should they live then? Jesus said this in John 14:15. If you love me, keep my commandments. Saved people will obey God which isn't to say they will never make mistakes, but their life is one characterized by obedience and growing in obedience. Love for God brings obedience into a person's life. Revelation 14:12 describes the saved when it says: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus".
It isn't that their commandment keeping earned them salvation but because Jesus had come into their lives, their lives became lives of obedience, lives of honoring God. When you love someone, you want to please that someone and it pleases God that we obey him, that we keep his commandments. Look in the Bible. It does not teach us that grace means we are free to run off and sin. It's because of grace that we don't want to do that because we know it hurts God. If you have a question that you would like answered, go to our website: itiswritten.com and click on the "Questions" tab. Submit your question and in a future program, we might be able to answer your Bible question.
You can't really have the discussion about slavery in the United States of America without mentioning the name Frederick Douglas. Frederick Douglas was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland in 1818. Now because slave mothers weren't allowed to raise their own children, he never did know the exact date of his birthday. When he was about 12 years old, his owners' wife began to teach him the alphabet, despite the fact it was illegal to teach slaves how to read. Frederick Douglas would describe her as a kind woman. She said that she treated him the way one human being ought to treat another. Now, when the slave master found out what was going on, he strongly disapproved. He said this must not happen.
Frederick must not learn how to read because should a slave learn to read, why then a slave would want to learn to write. And should a slave learn how to right, then a slave would be wanting his own freedom. Later, Douglas described these words as the first decidedly antislavery lecture that he would ever hear. In spite of his owner's discouragement, Frederick Douglas did learn to read. He learned from white children living in his neighborhood and by looking at the written materials owned by the men with whom he worked and then Douglas escaped. He fled to New York and he became an advocate for the abolitionist movement and once a free man, Frederick Douglas had some very interesting things to say about slavery.
"From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace. And in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom". It was as though Frederick Douglas, even though he had been raised to believe that he was nothing more than cattle, always suspected that slavery was wrong. It was something it seems in the back of his mind that always told him that that was the case.
And do you think that Douglas' case was unique or did the other slaves feel the same way? Of course they did. They had the reminders around them all of the time as to what their true condition really was. They were owned by somebody else. They often had irons weighing them down. They often felt whips cutting into their backs and they heard the cruel words of their masters. They recognized that they were slaves because those reminders were around them all of the time. Their lives told them what they really were. But you might be surprised to know that there are many people today who don't realize that they are in bondage. In fact, you might be one of them. Find out more in just a moment.
Back in 1988 Presidential Candidate George H W Bush addressed a large audience at his party's National Convention and said, "Read my lips, no new taxes". That was a promise, and he meant it. But promises can be hard to keep, and even politicians find that on occasions their promises can be harder to keep than they thought when they made them. Later, President Bush wanted to reduce the budget deficit and so some taxes were raised - and the one-term President Bush wasn't reelected - the broken promise, many say, was a a key factor in his defeat. Many people make promises to God and find they can't keep them. "I'll do better, I won't do that again, I'll never commit that sin... Ever again...", all promises that sound good but are actually doomed to fail.
In Philippians 3:9 Paul wrote, "and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith". Our righteousness doesn't come from us trying to do better. Paul knew the righteousness he needed was Christ's righteousness, the only righteousness that can open the gates of heaven to us. And Paul makes clear that the only way he could get that righteousness was through faith, and not by trying harder.
I'm not saying there's no effort involved in being a Christian, because there certainly is. But the greatest effort we can make in our Christian experience is the effort to surrender to God, and allow Him to make our heart His own. If we can learn to yield to God, to surrender, He'll give us His righteousness - the only kind of righteousness that will do us any good. You can make promises to God, but it's better to believe God's promises to you. I'm John Bradshaw for It Is Written. Let's live today by Every Word.
Frederick Douglas has said that the pathway from slavery to freedom is knowledge. And he was absolutely right. You know, there are so many people in this world today who are slaves but they are unaware of their true condition. They are born into bondage and unless the truth reaches them, they will never be free. Well, what kind of slaves am I talking about? Jesus said this in John 8:34 to 36, Most assuredly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. Whoever commits sin is the servant or the slave of sin. If we have sinned then we have become slaves and the Bible says that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. But, here is the thing.
While most people would recognize I have made a mistake or two, most people would not go that step further and say that as a sinner, I have become enslaved, I am in bondage, I am in chains. As a sinner, I am the servant or the slave of sin. And the most dangerous thing about this is that people might be born into a world of sin and think that they are okay. Yes, I stumble. Yes, I do this. Yes, I err. I am faulty. But I am okay. When perhaps they are anything but okay. We have been talking about the social climate in the 1800's that brought about the conditions whereby people accepted slavery and I know many people that I have spoken to have shaken their head and they have said, "how could people accept such an atrocity as though it's okay".
Well, I'll tell you this during the 1860's, the churches of the South signed a document stating their support for slavery. In an open letter to the Christians of the world, the leaders of the churches of the confederacy wrote a letter in which they said this: "And we testify in the sight of God, that the relation of master and slave among us, however we may deplore abuses in this as in other relations of mankind, is not incompatible with our wholly Christianity. And that the presence of the Africans of our land is an occasion of gratitude on their behalf before God. Seeing that thereby Divine providence has brought them where missionaries of the cross may freely proclaim to them the word of salvation and the work is not interrupted by agitating fanaticism. The South has done more than any people on earth for the Christianization of the African race".
Now this statement was not made by some obscure group of believers. This was written and signed by the leaders of the Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, Presbyterian, Lutheran and German Reformed Churches just to name a few. Now in contrast to this, listen to what Frederick Douglas had to say about Christian slave-owners. I assert most unhesitatingly that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes, a justifier of the most appalling barbarity. A sanctifier of the most hateful frauds and a dark shelter under which the darkest, grossest and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me, for all of the slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst.
Now, let me make something abundantly clear. I'm not bringing any of this up to be critical of anybody. I am not trying to criticize any religious groups and I certainly am not trying to throw the South under the bus. But here's the point. Here's what we really have got to understand. Without the power of God in our lives, left to ourselves, left in a state of being the captives, the slaves of sin, all we've got to look forward to is lives of sin and anger and malice and lust and ....and slavery. I know it's easy to look back on the past and wag our finger at those who come before us and criticize them for their ignorance, and say "how could they"?
But the truth is this. With a heart of stone. Without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in our lives that's what we are all like. The bible says all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. But there is a way out. No, it's not will-power. No amount of will-power is going to break the chains that bind you in sin. No pledge, no promise, no accountability partner. No, that's not what gets the job done. There's one way to get out of the shackles of sin and that's through Jesus. Remember that verse we looked at before, from John 8. Therefore, if the Son of God shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. Isaiah 43:11 says this: "I, even I am the Lord, and beside me, there is no other".
So, what do you do when you find yourself living a life where you say "There's no power and I'm stuck in a rut, I'm stuck in an old way, I'm stuck someplace I don't want to be". What do you do? There's one thing to do. When you find that sin has the mastery over you, call out to Jesus. You can do that. No, God is not some cosmic cop with a big stick looking to punish you or looking to send you off to hell, if that's what he was all about, he could have done that long ago. Instead, the Bible says this in John 3, not verse 16, but verse 17. It says this: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Paul wrote to Timothy, and he said in 1 Timothy 1:15 that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The writer of the book of Hebrews said in Hebrews 7 that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him because he lives to make intercession for us. If you desire a new life, freedom from the old ways, freedom from the old habits, if you want that power that comes from Jesus Christ, all you need do is ask Jesus to come into your life and he will. It's as simple as that. And then, when you are tempted to put somebody else down, when you are tempted to engage injustice or oppression, when you are tempted to be drawn into that old life again, here's what you do. You turn your eyes upon Jesus.
And the old song says "look full in his wonderful face" and when you do, you'll experience a newness in our life, a power in your life. It's real. You can experience it today. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anybody is in Christ, that person becomes a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things become new. What do you want to be made new in your life today? Well, let me put it another way ... what are you a slave to? What is keeping you down? What is holding you back? Is there something? You can invite Jesus to take that away and replace it with the power of his presence today, now, and he will do it for you.
Years after Frederick Douglas found his freedom, he wrote these words: I have often been asked how I felt when first I found myself on free soil and my readers may share the same curiosity. There was scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath and a quick round of blood, I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave-life. It was a time of joyous excitement, which words can but tamely describe in a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said, I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions. Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil. Frederick Douglas experienced freedom from slavery and you can experience freedom from the slavery of sin through Jesus when you accept him into your life. Would you do that now? Let's pray together.
Our Father in heaven, we thank you today for freedom in Jesus. We thank you, Lord, that through Christ, we can true freedom, no longer the servants or the slaves of sin but the servants only of the God of heaven. We thank you for new life. We accept it gratefully. Lord, let your son Jesus live his life in us and we pray with thanks today for freedom in you. In Jesus' name, Amen.