July 4 is a big day for Americans. Each year on this date we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and celebrate our independence from British rule.
On July 4, 1982, I happened to be in, of all places, Great Britain! And that year, July 4th fell on a Sunday. In God’s providence I was to give the sermon that day in a Baptist church in Great Yarmouth. As the pastor introduced me, he quipped that it was nice to have a guest “from the colonies” to preach!
My personal independence day came in January of 1976 … 6 months before the 200th anniversary of our national independence! I well remember walking down the aisle of the large church in which a gospel revival was being held. The guest preacher had just concluded his message and an invitation was given for all who wanted to be saved to come forward. I stepped out from the back and walked down to the front of the auditorium. I was met by the pastor of the church at the end of the aisle. After asking me why I had come forward, he opened the Bible and asked me to read John 1:12. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Then he asked me if I believed. When I said, “Yes,” he replied, “Then you are saved.” I stammered out a question, “Don’t I have to pray … or something?” He said I certainly could pray if I desired but he pointed me back to John 1:12 with the question, “What does God say here?” Those who believe become God’s children. Faith alone in Christ.
Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
As I look back on that experience, I am inclined to think that God actually saved me when I let go of that pew toward the back of the auditorium and began to head down the aisle. Being raised from birth under the teaching of the gospel at home, in church, and in school, I was well-informed of God’s good news: Jesus, God’s Son, died for my sins and was raised back to life. Forgiveness for sins is a free gift of God received simply by faith. By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Knowledge of that wonderful message was firmly rooted in my mind. However, the personal response of faith was lacking. In fact, I had struggled for many years with the awareness that though I knew the life-transforming message of Christ I had never personally received Him. Stepping out from my place in the pew that night signaled the change that had taken place in me. I decided to stop questioning, wrestling, delaying. I was ready to make a definitive, public decision for Jesus. God in His mercy to me, the sinner, reached down and saved me from my sin, its guilt and condemnation.
On that January day, by God’s mercy these great “independence” verses became true for me:
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18)
Thank God for freedom in Jesus! What was your “independence day” like?