A Declaration of Divine Dependence
This Sunday is July 4. It is a day that we are right to set aside to celebrate the privilege of living and working and worshipping in a free country. It is right both as citizens and as saints. It is right as citizens because the privileges we enjoy were purchased, developed and defended at great cost to our fellow citizens, both past and present. It is right as saints because the sovereignty of God extends over all governments. It is God who raises up kings and removes them (Dan. 2:21). It is God who dispenses authority to governments (Rm. 13:1). And without that gift, they would wield no authority (Jn. 19:11). Therefore, the relative peace and stability and freedom and opportunity that we have inherited in this Republic are good gifts from the hand of God. There is, therefore, everything right with marking that gift and acknowledging the human instruments He has used in the past to secure such blessings for us. I am thankful to God that I am an American citizen.
However, though it is right to be grateful as both citizen and saint, it does not follow that it is right or wise to turn our July 4th church services into patriotic festivals. To mention a few reasons why this is so: to wave flags and festoon the sanctuary of our churches with red, white and blue can easily confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom(s) of man. Second, to sing patriotic songs as part of our worship service can distract our hearts away from allegiance to the King of kings. Third, none of the varied reasons God calls His people to gather corporately include the exultation in or exposition of our socio-political situation. Therefore any part of our worship that would no longer be relevant if our country was invaded by foreign powers and our cities occupied by foreign armies deserves a place under these (thankfully) different circumstances.
But perhaps the most significant reason why a political holiday like the fourth of July must not be allowed to inform our worship service is the most subtle. July 4th is Independence Day – a celebration of our pursuit of “God-given” rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (all of which are defined very differently in Scripture than they are in the Declaration), unfettered by the meddling of foreign tyrants. “We are free – we are autonomous – we are independent – we are self-sufficient!” At root, this is the heart posture that resulted in this holiday. And that is a very different heart posture than a Christian worship service must seek to cultivate. Our declaration every time we gather is that we are fully and completely dependent on His divine power to grant us all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Pt. 1:3)! That is why we call it a worship “service” – because He serves us! God gets glory by serving and strengthening a dependent people.
To help unpack Peter’s claim that we depend on Him for “all things”, here is a list of at least 21 things we depend on the Lord to give to His people: Rest (Deut. 3:20), Safety (Deut. 12:10), Power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18), Victory (Deut. 20:13; I Cor. 15:57), Discretion and understanding (I Chron. 22:12), Life to those dead (Job 33:4; Is. 42:5; Jn. 6:33; Rm. 4:17; I Tim. 6:13; Rev. 2:7), Songs in the night (Job 35:10), Power and strength to His people (Ps. 68:35), Rain in its season (Jer. 5:24), the Spirit without measure (Jn. 3:34; I Thess. 4:8), spiritual Growth (I Cor. 3:7), our Resurrection body (I Cor. 15:58), Wisdom (Js. 1:5), Grace (Js. 4:6; I Pt. 5:5), Light (Rev. 21:23; II Cor. 4:6), Success (Gen. 24:12; Gen. 27:20), Answers to prayer (I Sam. 1:17; I Chron. 4:10; 5:20), Mercy (Gen. 34:14), Revival (Ezra 9:9), Help (Ps. 89:19; Ps. 121:1), Repentance (Acts 11:18; II Tim. 2:25).
For me, the comprehensive scope of this list was very sobering! As we meditate on this list in preparation for Sunday, may our hearts freely and joyfully confess our dependence on this great God!