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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg

Following the July 1-3, 1863, Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil
War, a section of the battlefield was designated as a cemetery for the
soldiers slain in the battle. A ceremony was planned for November 19, 1863
for the "Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg." Edward
Everett was selected to give the chief oration. President Abraham Lincoln
was invited to formally dedicate the site. The organizational committee
expressed to President Lincoln: "It is the desire that, after the Oration,
you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to
their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks."

These "few appropriate remarks" - the Gettysburg Address - that Lincoln
would share on that historic occasion have come to be regarded as one of the
greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln
"examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the
Civil War, and memorialized the sacrifices of those who gave their lives at
Gettysburg and extolled virtues for the listeners (and the nation) to ensure
the survival of America's representative democracy" (Wikipedia).

Although the President was asked to dedicate the ground for the cemetery, he
concluded his Address with a challenge to the living:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before
us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation,
under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the
people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

There is an even greater cause for which Jesus Christ, God's Son, was
willing to give "the last full measure of devotion." The "cause" was the
plan of God for the salvation of man that would be accomplished through the
death (and resurrection!) of His Son as payment for the sins of mankind.

Man's greatest problem has always been sin! And sin leads to eternal
destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). But God loves us so much that He gave
His Son to die on the cross that we might be redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).
Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life
for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus expressed "the last full measure of
devotion" to His heavenly Father and to accomplishing His Father's will by
giving His life for us.

In order to accept the Father's offer of salvation and life, one must place
his faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance
(Acts 17:30-31) confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized
(immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians
3:26-27).

Then (adapting Lincoln's words to reflect spiritual truths), out of
gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, we should "take increased devotion
to that cause for which [Jesus] gave the last full measure of devotion -
that we here highly resolve that [Jesus] shall not have died in vain - that
[all those who accept Christ's offer], shall have a new birth of freedom" -
freedom from the bondage of sin and death.

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." - John 8:36

Won't YOU accept His offer of freedom, salvation, and life?

David A. Sargent

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