Spiritual Freedom

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On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and accepted the final draft of an important document, the Declaration of Independence, which declares that ALL men are created equal and have basic rights given by God. The purpose of having a governmental institution is to protect those basic rights, which Thomas Jefferson defined as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many Americans will celebrate this historical day by gathering for cookouts, going to watch fireworks and/or proudly displaying the American flag at their homes.

As Christians and American citizens, we are privileged and blessed to live in freedom. Some freedoms we enjoy include living out our faith through worship, reading the Bible, and prayer; voting; pursuing happiness and speaking our minds. But sometimes we forget that these freedoms are a gift we should not take for granted. In the future, there may come a day when our freedoms are taken from us.

Therefore, we should be mindful that there are millions of people around the world who are denied the same freedoms we have simply because they are Christians—people referred to as the persecuted Church.

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

— Philippians 1:29

According to Open Doors USA, Christian persecution, defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ, is an ongoing issue for our brothers and sisters. Some examples of persecution in the world include forced conversions, confiscation or destruction of property, denial of legal rights, arrest, imprisonment, job discrimination, educational discrimination, bodily harm and/or death. Christian women are considered most at risk due to their gender and faith.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

— Matthew 5:11-12

We are not two separate churches or two separate bodies of believers—there is only one according to Scripture. Those of us in the West are one body with those in parts of the world being persecuted.

“Just as the human body is one, though it has many parts that together form one body, so too is Christ. For by one Spirit we all were immersed and mingled into one single body. And no matter our status—whether we are Jews or non-Jews, oppressed or free—we are all privileged to drink deeply of the same Holy Spirit.

— 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

The lives of our brother and sisters demonstrate that even when things appear out of their control, there is a knowing God who is in charge. And He will provide whatever is necessary to sustain them through their hardships, whether it is grace, courage, peace, strength, joy or even rest. May we in the Western world remember that we are one Body in Christ Jesus and we need one another.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

— Isaiah 41:10

When those who suffer for Christ have the ability to see through spiritual eyes, God shows them that demonic forces are behind the persecution. And He gives them understanding that it is unnecessary to respond in the same manner. The battles they face are not against flesh and blood; rather, it is a spiritual war we as one Body can fight together. (Ephesians 6:12)

Although the persecuted Church around the world is being assaulted and in chains in the physical realm, we need to remember that in the spirit, they are not. They are free! Our brothers and sisters have been delivered from this evil world and are seated in the heavenlies with the Lord. Spiritual freedom was bought by the blood of Jesus 2,000 years ago when He made a public spectacle of defeating the enemy on the cross.

“In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.”

— Colossians 2:15

So this Independence Day, let’s remember to pray for the persecuted Church. Here are some ways you can pray this week.

1. Pray that they will experience God’s presence and peace.

2. Pray that they will remain joyful in the midst of their suffering.

3. Pray that they remain grounded in God’s Word and grow in their faith.

4. Pray that they have opportunities to share the Gospel with God-given boldness and courage.

5. Pray that their activities are hidden from authorities or others who may want to harm them.

6. Pray that the Holy Spirit enables them to forgive and love their persecutors.

7. Pray that the Lord would work in the hearts of those who are persecuting the Church, bringing them to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

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Thank you for sowing into the persecuted Church and standing with our brothers and sisters worldwide.

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We believe the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are inspired by God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Peter 1:21)

We believe that there is one God, eternally existent who has revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Deuteronomy 6:4, Luke 3:22)

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us, in His present rule as Head of the Church, and in His personal return in power and glory. (Matthew 1:23, Luke 1:31)

We believe in the creation of mankind in God’s image, and the fall of man, resulting in universal guilt and total depravity; and the necessity, therefore, of redemption and restoration; that all men and women are lost spiritually and face the judgment of God, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:17)

We believe salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life. (Luke 24:47, John 3:3)

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; the saved unto the resurrection of eternal life in the presence of our Lord, and the lost unto the resurrection of damnation and eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43-48)

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and that all true believers are members of His body, the Church, which has the duty to preach the Gospel to every person. (Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 2:22)

We believe that we must dedicate ourselves to prayer, to the service of our Lord, to His authority over our lives, and to the ministry of teaching, preaching, the prophetic, the apostolic, and evangelism. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

We believe in upholding the ordinances of the church of water baptism and holy communion.

The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe in Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus, they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 10:47,48, Romans 6:4)

The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—, is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26), and is enjoined on all believers “till He comes!”