Independence Day is upon us, and next to Thanksgiving, it is the other day out of the year when we feel thankful for this great country. The United States of America has been blessed—in spite of our many blunders and imperfect track record. We are in a season when so many want to tear down our country and highlight only our faults. I do not want to deny the darker, sadder side of our history, but I’d rather focus on God’s goodness to us.
I love the line from America the Beautiful: “God shed His grace on thee.” As we celebrate the blessings of this country and ponder the future in front of us, let me remind us what God’s grace means for our country:
We experience God’s grace when He gives us what we do not deserve. God’s grace comes at us two ways: common grace and saving grace. Let’s not confuse the two.
Common grace is the good God provides to all people.
“For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).
Everyone of us is a sinner and deserve nothing but death. A barren landscape. A harsh environment. Yet God gives us what we do not deserve: a fertile land and a beautiful landscape. And we all enjoy that whether we follow God or not. So many Americans—believers and unbelievers—have been graced with incredible minds, talent, and/or ingenuity, and as a country, we have benefited from that common grace given to them. Compared to the rest of the world, we are most assuredly a rich country, a well-educated country, and a healthy country. For that, we should thank God.
With all these blessings from God’s common grace, let’s not deceive ourselves and think we are a special country, as if God likes us more. Just as quickly as we became a strong, prosperous country, God can take it all away. What we have and experience is from God’s common grace, blessings He provides even though we don’t deserve them. So, if He removed His hand one day, we have no right to complain. It’s not like God owed us these blessings or we earned them. Everything good flows from His grace.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17).
There is the other expression of God’s grace: His saving grace. Saving grace is the work Christ did to save us from our sin. We cannot earn salvation regardless of our good attempts; He saved us through Christ purely because of grace. We do not deserve it, but I am eternally thankful for it.
When people come to Christ and experience His saving grace, they are transformed. We’ve had many periods of our American history where there has been significant movement toward God, and our country benefited. Followers of Christ make the best citizens; they strive for the betterment of society. We work to improve lives out of our love for God and love for others. A redeemed person is a better person which leads to better families, ands better families lead to better communities. We’re not perfect, but where the church has flourished, the community flourished.
As we celebrate our country, let us not presume upon His grace. If we continue down the road of ignoring God and His gracious work in our country, let’s not presume He will continue to bless us. But if we acknowledge that what we have is from His gracious heart, we could very well see a renewed blessing on our country.
“[If] my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
Those actions—humility, prayer, and repentance—need to begin with the church. And for that to begin with the church, it needs to begin with me.
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