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Sermon Message

"The 'Ultimate Purpose' of Freedom"

1 Timothy 2:1-8
Theme: Our freedom as Americans finds its highest purpose in being of use to the spreading of Gospel of Jesus Christ.

(A message delivered at Heritage Christian School for "Christian Heritage Week" on November 13, 2002.  All Scripture quotes are taken from the New International Version, 1978, New York International Bible Society.)  


A. As Americans, we enjoy more freedom than the people of any other nation in the world. We should always be thankful that God has given us this great heritage of liberty. But have you ever asked yourself what the "purpose" of that freedom is? If you were to ask the average person in America - in the midst of all this freedom - what they thought the 'ultimate purpose' of that freedom might be, I'd bet you'd get a lot of different of answers.

1. Some would find the 'ultimate purpose' of our freedom in the Declaration of Independence. They'd read where it says, "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. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... And they'd say, "There it is! The 'ultimate purpose' of my freedom as an American is to pursue what I believe to be life, liberty and happiness for myself and my family." In as much as that pursuit is an honorable one, that certainly is a great thing to celebrate about our freedom; but is it the 'ultimate purpose' of it? Would God agree that that was why He gave it to us?

2. Others would say something even more noble. They'd look into the future and say, "The 'ultimate purpose' of my freedom as an American is found in my being able to pass on a secure heritage to the next generation. I must use the freedom I have been given wisely, so I can protect it and pass it on to future generations. It's my duty to make sure that they will grow up free - just like me; and to protect their ability to pursue what they believe to be life, liberty and happiness." That's certainly honorable, and a great motivation to protect the freedom we enjoy; but again I ask - is it what God would say is the 'ultimate purpose' of our freedom He has given us?

3. Others - I suspect MOST people today - would say, "The 'ultimate purpose' of my freedom as an American is that it gives me the right to say whatever I want to say, or be whatever I want to be, or do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, without anyone telling me I can't or shouldn't." For such people, 'freedom' doesn't so much freedom from a dictator, or a king, or a political tyranny. For them, 'freedom' means being free from the moral law of God and moral obligation toward fellow human beings. I'm sure you'd agree with me that that's a very, very low idea of the 'ultimate purpose' for our freedom. People who believe that really do little more than squander and abuse their freedom - and perhaps even tempt God to take it away from them.

B. So what would God say? How would God answer that question? What would He say is the 'ultimate purpose' of our freedom as Americans? I believe that we can understand the answer by getting to understand the reason God gives us for why He created all the nations. And His purpose for creating all the nations is found for us in Acts 17.

1. In Acts 17, the greatest missionary the world has ever known, the Apostle Paul, was in the city of Athens waiting for some of his co-workers to join him in his missionary journey. While in this famous cultural center of the Greek world, his spirit was troubled and burdened over the horrible idolatry that he saw everywhere he looked. The people of Athens almost had more gods to worship than they had people to do the worshiping! In fact, they had altars to gods they didn't even know.

2. And so; while waiting for these co-workers to arrive, Paul began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ right in the marketplaces and streets of Athens. It really caused a commotion; and an official committee of community leaders and thinkers called Paul to appear before them and explain what it was he was teaching. He told them;

Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and observed your objects of worship, I even found an alter with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17:22-23).

3. He then began to tell them all about this "God" that they worshiped in ignorance. As I read what he says, listen and you'll hear the reason he gives for why God created the nations - including the United States of America - and a clue to what the 'ultimate purpose' of our freedom as Americans really is. Paul says,

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact place where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us (vv. 24-27).

4. Do you see how the purpose of the nations is expressed? Paul tells the Athenians that the sovereign God of the ages allowed the nations to be formed, and determined the times of their existence and the extent of their borders in advance, for the purpose that the people of those nations would seek Him and find Him. And it wasn't that God wants to playing games with people and hide from them so they had to hunt around and try to find Him. Pointing to all the idols and temples to false gods, Paul goes on to say,

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead (vv. 30-31).

C. So then; God has permitted the United States of America to come into existence, under the providence of His sovereign hand, for the same ultimate purpose He has permitted every other nation to come into existence: so that the lost, sinful, dying people of this world could seek God, reach out for Him and, by God's mercy and grace, at last find Him by placing their faith in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. Thus, the people of these earthly kingdoms could live forever with Him in His heavenly kingdom.

1. The United States of America is, historically, a nation uniquely suited to this great purpose because its system of government allows its citizens the greatest political freedom.

2. And so, if someone should ask, "What is the 'ultimate purpose' for the existence of the United States of America?", I believe the most biblical answer - the one that God Himself would give - is that its ultimate and greatest purpose is as a tool in the hand of a very gracious and merciful God to lead people to find Him and have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. And the 'ultimate purpose' of our freedom as Americans flows from God's 'ultimate purpose' for our nation. Our freedom is a tool in God's hand to help advance the spread of the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

D. Now this would probably seem like a really radical idea to many people today. But the fact is that God didn't permitted America to come into existence with the intention that it be an earthly kingdom that lasts forever. He didn't allow the United States to come into existence as an end in and of itself. Rather, He permitted it it to exist, ultimately, be a tool to help populate heaven. That is the 'ultimate purpose' of the political freedom we enjoy as Americans. Ten thousands times ten thousands of centuries from now, the only real value of the freedom we enjoy as Americans today will be in how that freedom was used in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who will be in heaven then.


This being true, what then would God want us to do with the freedoms we enjoy? Once again, the Bible tells us. If you'll look with me at 1 Timothy 2:1-8, you'll see that God wants us to pray for the protection and advancement of our freedom, and live in a godly way in it, so that it advances the proclamation of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we look at this passage, let's consider some of the principles it teaches us about the ultimate purpose of our freedom as citizens of the United States of America. First, we can see that ...


A. 1 Timothy is a letter containing instructions that Paul wrote to a young pastor of the church of Ephesus. I like Timothy. He was a young pastor, and apparently a little 'timid'; and Paul had to write and encourage Timothy to grab ahold of his work of the ministry and do it boldly (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 2 Tim. 4:5). Just as Paul himself had been given by God the task of proclaiming and defending the Good News of Christ, Paul entrusted this same Gospel task to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:18). And while writing to encourage Timothy to do his work as a faithful pastor, Paul said, in 1 Tim. 2:1-8;

I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior (vv. 1-3).

B. Paul had a lot of things he wanted to urge Timothy to do in this letter; but the thing he wanted to urge him to do "first of all" - that is, as a matter of highest importance - was to see to it that the church he served was a praying church; a church that was praying about some very specific things. Notice the three things he says about the prayer ministry he was urging upon Timothy:

1. First, notice HOW he urges them to pray.

a. He mentions four kinds of prayer.

i. He mentions "requests," which involved specific prayers for the meeting of specific needs.

ii. Then Paul used the general, all-purpose word "prayers", that is, prayers directed toward God in worship and reverence.

iii. Then, he calls for "intercessions"; which also involves the idea of specific requests, but has the particular focus of the needs of other people.

iv. And finally, Paul urges "thanksgiving". Whatever our need or circumstance, we should always express our trust and confidence in God's goodness by giving Him thanks.

b. When Paul mentioned these different types of prayer, he wasn't trying to say, "Make sure everyone prays in exactly these four ways, Timothy." Rather, Paul's point was, "Make sure that prayer is going on - in all ways and all manners of prayer."

2. Second, notice FOR WHOM he urges them to pray.

a. Three groups are mentioned.

i. "Everyone" is to be prayed for. This would refer to all the other people - other citizens - of the nations in which the Christians were living, whether those other citizens were Christians or not.

ii. Then, "kings" are specified for prayer; that is, the rulers or ruling body over the kingdom.

iii. And below these where "all those in authority" - that is the ruler's aids, advisors, and subordinates.

b. In other words, Paul wrote to Timothy to urge that the church be praying for those who were in political offices or in positions of power - those on whose shoulders God had entrusted the responsibility of governing the nation - with requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving. And the church is to be praying for its fellow citizens as well.

3. Now let's face it; that can sometimes be hard to do. Some rulers rule very badly, unethically or carelessly. Some rulers create a hostile environment and stir unrest among their people. Some rulers even openly and maliciously persecute Christians. But God doesn't say only to pray for the good rulers and politicians, the honest ones or the kind ones. In fact, notice thirdly why he urges such prayer: "that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness". In other words the church is to pray that it will have "political freedom" so that it wont be hindered in ministry by hostile forces or a chaotic political environment, and so that its people could live the godly, Christ-like lives they should.

C. And Paul says that "this" -- that is, such prayer for those in political power for such a purpose - "is good, and pleases God our Savior ..."

D. Just think, then, about the valuable role we as God's people play in the health and well-being of our nation! In heaven's perspective, there is no "wall of separation" between Church and State. There's no wall mankind can erect to separate God from anything! Church and State may be distinct institutions - and they should be kept distinct. But just as the government has a duty to protect the peace and security of all it's citizens - including Christians, the Church has a duty to perform to the government. God's command is for us, as Christians living in America, to move His mighty hand of influence and blessing upon our nation by faithfully praying for its government and its leaders.


Did you notice how this has God's approval? Paul said that this is "good, and pleases God our Savior ..." This is something God wants us to do. Why? As we read on, we see that ...


A. A commitment to pray for our nation is good and acceptable to God because it helps us focus on what is important to God. Notice that Paul stresses that God is "our Savior". God's great concern isn't for human governments as an end in and of themselves. His concern is that our temporal government, and the political freedoms it protects, helps make the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ possible, which will save people from their sins and makes them live forever. You can plainly tell that this is God's concern by what Paul says next. He speaks of what is "good, and pleases God our Savior" ...

... who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle - I am telling the truth, I am not lying - a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (vv. 4-8).

B. We're to pray that God would protect our freedom as Americans, and for our government and its leaders - "that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness" - ULTIMATELY so the Gospel will have the greatest freedom to spread and change people's lives through the ministry of the Church on earth. Notice how Paul goes on to explain why such prayer for our government and its leaders is "good, and pleases God our Savior ..."

1. First, notice that it's God's expressed desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Obviously, not everyone does. (Personally, I believe in the great mystery of God's sovereignty when it comes to salvation; that is, that all those He has chosen for salvation from the beginning, in the secret councils of His eternal wisdom, do inevitably trust Jesus as their Savior and are saved.) But nevertheless, it's God's expressed, compassionate desire that no one be lost -- that all people be saved. He excludes no one from the opportunity. God is patient, as Peter says, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).

2. Second, notice that God wants His saving message of the Gospel to be made known to all people. He wants evangelism and missions to happen. You can see how Paul stresses this to us in this passage.

a. First, Paul says that there's ONLY ONE GOD. There aren't many gods, as the people of Athens believed. Nor is there 'no God', as many believe today. Just as it's asserted in the great Jewish declaration of faith found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5; "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." There is one God -- and only one! It's the obligation of all people, everywhere, to worship and serve the one true God who made them.

b. This same God made people to have fellowship with Him; but sin has separated sinful people from their holy Creator. And so, second, Paul says there's ONLY ONE MEDIATOR that stands between God and sinful, fallen mankind: there is "... one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." There's not many "mediators" - such as the saints, or Mary, or the angels. There aren't many "saviors" and many roads to God. There's only one; just as it says in Acts 4:12 about Jesus: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved".

c. Third, there's ONLY ONE SACRIFICE given to make it possible for people to have their sins forgiven before the one true God. There aren't many different ways of atoning for sins committed against God. There aren't many 'ransoms'. Paul says of this Jesus that he "gave himself as a ransom for all men". Just like it says in what is perhaps the best known verse of the Bible; For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

d. Fourth, there's ONLY ONE MESSAGE that leads people to salvation. There isn't any other Gospel message for the world from God, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone. Paul said that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all, "the testimony given in its proper time". God created the nations of the world so that people might seek after Him; and when the time was right, He sent His Son to die on a cross for the sins of the world, and then sent the message of that sacrifice everywhere - organizing and laying out those nations just as He wished, so that the Gospel would spread around the world throughout the unfolding centuries. God's message to all people everywhere since then is the same. It is that message which was preached by Jesus Himself - "The time has come ... The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15).

e. So; there's only one God, only one Mediator, only one Sacrifice, and only one Message. But notice, finally, that there needs to be AN ONGOING DECLARATION of these things to all people of world. It is sometimes said of Paul that he made all this up, and that he was trying to exalt himself. But he emphasizes his own commission from God to preach the Gospel when he says, "And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle - I am telling the truth, I am not lying - and a teacher of the truth faith to the Gentiles." It's just as Paul said elsewhere, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14-15).

3. Hopefully now, you can see that God's desire for the salvation of the people of the world, and His will that the saving message be sent out throughout the world, leads us thirdly to God's mandate of prayer for our nation's freedom.

a. God's great interest is that people be saved and dwell with Him in heaven for eternity. That's what He is most concerned about. And He has made that salvation possible through the sacrifice of His Son. God is concerned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be declared and have the greatest possible opportunity to spread and be heard by everyone.

b. We're to pray, then, for a good government with good leaders and a good citizenry -not just so we can have it easy, but that we can live holy, godly lives, and so that the Gospel can spread unhindered. And so; Paul says, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (v. 8).


I'm grateful to God for the freedom I enjoy as an American; aren't you? That freedom ought to be celebrated by us; and we ought to give thanks to God for it. But we need to remember that the 'ultimate purpose' of that freedom isn't found in anything on earth. It isn't found in whether or not we're able to pursue the good life. It isn't found in whether or not we secure the good life for others. As important as those things are, they're only, at best, of value for a short while - only until it comes time to leave this world and enter into our eternal destiny.

A few years ago, I was in Los Angeles, attending a national gathering of Christians all across the country to fast and pray for America. And during that gathering, we were given some news that greatly humbled us. We were told that only eleven hours prior to our time there, a similar gathering had occurred in the former Soviet Union. Our brothers and sisters in Christ living there had gathered to pray for America. They were praying for our nation because they believed that America - because of all the political freedoms it has been given by God - was still the great hope of the world for the spread of the Gospel.

Measured in terms of eternity - measured from God's perspective - the real value of our freedom as Americans is found ultimately in how that freedom is used to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, who hold a 'dual citizenship' - for a while in the United States; and then, for eternity, in heaven - we're urged to value and pray for the protection of our precious political freedoms, with the end in mind of seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ have the greatest opportunity to spread and transform the lives of as many people as possible - to the eternal praise of God's grace. May God help us with this great responsibility with which we have been entrusted!

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