I was driving to a church meeting last Tuesday when I saw the sign that has been erected by Washington County welcoming travelers to the county. It is a large white stone monument that says "Welcome to Washington County" but also adds, "Birthplace of Texas." I know what that last part means but to travelers from outside of Texas or even to foreign visitors perhaps they shake their heads and wonder what it means for Washington County to call itself the Birthplace or Texas. If they venture a bit farther then the sign, perhaps to Brenham, and go to the Visitor Information Center, they may find a brochure or other information about the hamlet of Washington, Texas, just up Hwy. 105 from Brenham. There is where they will find the official "Birthplace of Texas" with the historic building where they could learn about why this place bears this name.
We learned in school when we took Texas History that early Texan pioneers settled in Texas when it was still a part of Mexico and, as the Colonies did in the century prior, soon they became disgruntled with the policies of the Mexican government that greatly affected their lives. Rather than move back to the United States and give up the land that the Mexican government had given them, they decided to have a rebellion and soon the Texas Revolution began. Those who were bent on revolution met at Washington on the Brazos in 1836 and declared themselves free from the Mexican government and soon the armed forces of Mexico led by General Santa Anna were racing across Texas to quell the rebellion and restore order. Unfortunately for him, the Texans were led by the tough soldier Sam Houston who led the forces of Texas to conquer the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto and took Santa Anna captive as part of it all, bringing independence and freedom to the Texans there.
From 1836 to 1845, Texas was a country of its own with its own government, President, and money. For nine years it functioned as a country of its own until finally its leaders decided they would be better off as a state in the United States rather than a country, a decision that some Texans today still hate happened. Texas gave up the right to be independent when it joined the Union and today is one of 50 parts of one whole unit. Despite what some secessionists say, Texas does not have the right to be an independent nation again. It became part of a nation in 1845 and its future is bound up in that nation and its welfare.
Jesus was talking to the religious leaders of his day in John 8 and one of the most quoted verses in the Bible is found in that chapter. "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32) His point to his listeners was that he would bring them the truth and they would be free from sin. They took him literally and got upset that he would imply that they were not already free because they were not slaves (except to the Roman government). His point was that freedom from sin is even more important than freedom as individuals.
Many religious persons throughout history struggled with this idea. Some were even the founders of certain religious traditions found throughout the world. Martin Luther believed that he was consumed with sin and tried to do all the works he could to bring about relief. He beat himself, he crawled on his knees up the steps of St. Peters in Rome while on a pilgrimage there, he read the scriptures voraciously, he prayed over and over again for relief from the sins he believed plagued him. Finally, he was reading from Romans and came across the idea that salvation was achieved through faith, not works, and the lightbulb came on over his head and he began to teach and preach that, much to the dismay of the religious hierarchy of his day who made their living selling the right to get out of hell for the right price. His very life was at stake because of his decision to tell the good news of faith to those fearful for their eternal future. All this happened while he was a priest serving as a monk.
John Wesley was an Anglican priest serving a parish in the Church of England. He mourned his sins and also wondered how he would escape the fires of hell because of his wickedness. He was attending a meeting on Aldersgate Street in London when he heard the book of Romans read and explained and he had what Methodists call his "Aldersgate Experience" where his "heart was strangely warmed." He received good news from the Holy Spirit about the role of grace in his life and how he could have assurance for his sins being forgiven rather than have to be in despair. That experience launched him into the work that became the forerunner of the Methodist movement both in England and abroad.
Both of these Reformers received news of freedom that they had longed to hear. The Holy Spirit spoke to them of this good news that they shared with others and began the Reformation that brought about the Protestant churches we have today. When you know the truth, it will set you free from worry, anxiety, despair, and sin. You will be free to know God's love is true for you personally and that God loves you just the way you are. Let the Spirit speak words of truth to you so you will find peace in this world of conflict and strife.