Editorial

The Spirit for '76

In honor of the centennial year.

Leo R. Van Dolson is an executive editor of Ministry

 

ARCHIBALD M. WILLARD, son of a Vermont Baptist clergyman, produced the well-known painting Spirit of '76 in honor of the centennial year, 1876. As models he chose a local Wellington, Ohio, fifer, Hugh Mosher; and Henry, the son of Gen. J. W. Devereux, as one of the drummers. The other drummer, the central figure in the painting, was modeled after Willard's minister-father.

Since the thirteen white stars on a field of blue and the thirteen alternately red and white stripes were not authorized by Congress until June 14, 1777, the flag in the painting was anachronistic so far as 1776 is concerned. As this picture has been copied and parodied endlessly, we do not feel that it is out of line to do so in this issue and to replace the American flag with another that represents Christian peoples every where.

In fact, we intend to portray a double meaning on our cover this month. We wish not only to join our fellow clergy men in America in a salute to the be ginning of the Bicentennial year but to call the attention of our readers around the world to the challenge and the need for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our ministries during this significant period.

It is time for a clear ringing call to sweep not only through the United States but through the entire world—a call to freedom and liberty in its truest sense.

Freedom in its highest sense means freedom from sin. Liberty is not license, but instead involves our liberty to choose the more abundant life Christ offers in John 10:10. We cannot have either without the true Spirit of 1976— the Holy Spirit.

The greatest tyranny in the world to day is the tyranny of things, the enslavement of man to materialism. Most people are much more interested in driving Cadillacs along cement highways than in walking the streets of gold. To many, crossing a lake on water skis is a more exciting pursuit than viewing with one's own eyes the "pure river of water of life" mentioned in Revelation 22:1.

Some families consider eating at McDonald's more important than feasting on the bread of life.

We who live in the United States in this Bicentennial year are the heirs of the resourcefulness, courage, imagination, and daring of those brave pioneers who made their way through burning deserts and mountain blizzards to create a nation out of a wilderness.

The central factor in the making of America was the spirit of the men who extended frontiers and enlarged the scope of life through research and invention.

Our heritage of freedom, however, goes back beyond that to the great pioneers of faith—Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Paul, to name a few—but above all, to Jesus. The tyranny of sin sought to crush the God-given dignity of the human being. Christ came to demonstrate the dignity and worth of each individual and to make it possible for us to become what God originally meant us to be— free moral agents who choose to live the more abundant life made possible by the One who blazed a trail for us through the wilderness of sin.

Freedom can be dangerous. Too many Americans have a distorted concept of freedom. We see this evidenced in runaway crime and inflation, in absurd divorce statistics and the weakening of family ties. We see it in the death toll on our highways and in the statistics of suicide. As we take a look at the spiritual flabbiness of the American nation is it not "high time" to issue a clear ringing call for a new spirit for 1976 a spirit of commitment to God's purpose for us and a dedication to true liberty rather than to license?

Yet commitment and dedication, as important as they are, are not enough in and of themselves. The Spirit of '76 must be the Spirit for '76 for Christians everywhere. No gift can compare with the greatest gift Christ promised His church that of the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that Christ's followers may be "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, . . . might be filled with all the fulness of God."

To settle for less at this point in time is to miss the challenge and opportunity Heaven makes available. According to the old American legend Rip Van Winkle slept through the American Revolution. Can it be that many Christians will sleep through the last great Christian revolution, not even aware of the Heaven-sent opportunity that is being made available to us?

We invite you to join us as this new year begins in using our pulpits to challenge our congregations to respond to the need of "The Spirit FOR 1976."

L.R.V.D.


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Leo R. Van Dolson is an executive editor of Ministry

January 1976

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