This week, we celebrated a cherished holiday, America’s Independence Day. Back on July 4, 1776, our original 13 colonies declared themselves to be free from the tyranny of British oppression.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty. In exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions of the minds and hearts of the American people.

But have you read the Declaration? Let me share just the first two paragraphs. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Enjoy your country’s freedoms. Like your forefathers, thank God for your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Because of His amazing grace, we live in the greatest country in the world.

Allen Tilley is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Carthage.